Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers brought the curtain down on the domestic soccer season when they competed for the FAI Cup at the Aviva Stadium last Sunday night, the Hoops denied the double by the Lilywhites following extra time.
For Athlone it was a case of what might have been as the Town were beaten by the winners in the semi-final a week earlier. The chance to play in only their second ever decider was shattered in record breaking fashion by Dundalk.
Luck was out for Athlone in the build up to the club’s biggest day for some time. Adrian Carberry’s men had reached the last four with convincing victories over Wexford and Shelbourne in previous rounds.
The draw handed Athlone a tough task, especially when Dundalk beat Bohemian FC to advance. A number of factors did not help their preparations. The hosts went into the tie without any competitive action since beating Shelbourne a month previously.
The usual training regime was maintained but the lack of serious on field action was a major disadvantage. No friendly fixtures could be organised and any match sharpness was lost. In contrast, Dundalk had kept ticking over both at home and in Europe.
Cruel suspensions and an unfortunate injury also deprived Carberry of the services of three of his regular starters. The Town had a settled look to it since action resumed and few injuries had added to the continuity. An accumulation of five yellow cards saw Carberry denied the services of Taner Dogan and Tumelo Tlou. The former was a prominent member of the team in midfield while Tolu had combined his duties at right back with some attacking runs down the flank.
The club certainly could feel aggrieved at the situation with Tlou. The first caution of his five was in the EA Sports cup back at the start of the year against Galway. The fact that the competition was not played to a finish only added to the club’s frustration. The run to the last four saw both players pick up yellow cards in the Shelbourne win. The subsequent suspension was therefore in the next competitive game. With the league completed, the cup tie was all that remained. Defeat to Shelbourne would have seen the bans carried forward to 2021 season.
The players that came in had little luck. Evan White at right back lasted just over half an hour before going off injured while Israel Kimazo had a tough time in midfield. A huge blow saw Aaron Myles ruled out with an eye problem. Having been ever present all season, the loss of the goalkeeper was immense. Eighteen-year-old Paddy Martyn was thrown in at the deep end to make his debut. It turned out to be a real baptism of fire for the young keeper.
An already depleted Town squad was thus deprived of three key players against opponents bristling with talent. The subsequent onslaught started as early as the fourth minute on its way to a double score thrashing.