While Athlone Town are still involved in the Leinster Senior Cup, league action has finished for Terry Butler’s men, a campaign that started with the defeat of Dundalk in the Leinster Cup and ended with a draw against Galway United at home.
In between, was a mix of good and bad as the Town left a bright opening behind to finish second from bottom on the First Division table. It could be looked upon as a half decent campaign as in 2018, the Town had finished bottom of the table without a win. There had been no improvement from 2017 when Athlone again finished bottom of the table.
With Butler again in charge, Athlone’s competitive season started with a morale boosting win over Dundalk as on loan signing Dean Williams opened his goal account with the only score of the game. It was a first victory in quite some time and the early season form was quickly carried into the League campaign. Athlone hosted Wexford FC in the first outing and Williams was again on target in a four two victory. Next up was a trip to St Colman’s park to take on Cobh Ramblers. Another Williams’s goal made it two wins from two games for the Town as they joined Bray Wanderers at the top of the table.
An early exit from the EA Sports Cup at the hands of Galway United followed. Title favourites Shelbourne were next to visit Athlone. The sending off of Ciaran Grogan proved crucial as the Reds ran out two nil winners. The response was positive though as, in mid-March, previously unbeaten Bray Wanderers were sunk at the Carlisle Grounds with a solitary strike from Aaron Brilly claiming the three points.
That was as good as it got though for Butler’s men as a poor run of results quickly had the Town plummeting down the table. Defeat to Longford Town at home in the first Midlands derby of the season was followed by five straight losses as the early season optimism quickly faded. A draw at home to Cobh on the first Friday in May stopped the rot but three more defeats followed. Things improved somewhat either side of the mid-season break with draws at home to Cabinteely and away to Galway. A first win in almost four months against Wexford lifted the Town out of the bottom two but the reprieve was brief. Four straight losses soon had Athlone back in ninth place.
The FAI Cup offered a break from domestic action but there was no joy in knockout action. Longford advanced as a Kealan Dillon goal proved to be mere consolation. Just four more league games remained with only two more points gained. A draw in Limerick was followed by defeat to promotion seeking duo Drogheda and Cabinteely. The season should have ended on a winning note as two goals from Dillon had Athlone ahead at home to Galway, but not for the first time however, the Town were stunned late on as the visitor’s equalised.