Athlone Town suffered a five-nil loss to Premier League side Shamrock Rovers in the third round of the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup last Friday night.
It was always going to be a big ask for Colin Fortune’s predominantly young charges against an experienced team a division above them, but the opening minutes of the game suggested The Town were up for this one.
With two minutes gone Athlone had the first proper attack of the game when they flashed the ball across the Rovers’ box, but nobody in a Town jersey was there to take advantage and the ball ended up going out for a Rovers throw-in.
Athlone’s early charges on the counter appeared to shake The Hoops into life, and The Town had keeper Jamie Quinn to thank for keeping out a Killian Brenan free kick from the edge of the area midway through the half. Trevor Clarke then drilled a cross along the turf into the Athlone box but Quinn saved well again. And while The Hoops undoubtedly dominated the opening 45 minutes, the sides surprisingly went in all square at the break.
All of Athlone’s hard work was dashed just three minutes into the second half when the referee pointed to the spot after Colm Cross handled in the area. The spot kick was converted by Gerry McCabe to put Rovers ahead and open the floodgates.
Boyd was rewarded for his hard work on 52 minutes to double The Hoops’ lead, after a shot by Trevor Clarke came back off Quinn and into the Rovers man’s path for a simple tap into an empty net. Rovers were out of sight on 62 minutes when Brandon Miele grabbed a third.
Unfortunately for Athlone the scoring did not end there. Simon Madden chipped in with a fourth in the 73rd minute, and James Doona rounded off the game with Rovers’ fifth in minute 78.
Athlone will not have enjoyed this defeat, but may not read too much into the result given the upheavals that have taken place this year and due to the standing of the opposition in question. Those troubles were given air once again last Friday as some fans undertook a peaceful protest for the removal of the current chairman and board.
Fortune continues to rebuild the club with young talent including many local faces and should be given time to do so. The will to do well is evident among these young players; only time will tell if they can turn that drive into points on the board.
The Town will look to return to winning ways in Division One when they play second from bottom Cabinteely next Friday night at Lissywollen. Avoiding a last place in the division must be Athlone Town’s objective now, so Friday’s encounter is important. The Midlanders currently trail Cabinteely by two points on the table. Five defeats on the spin is worrying for Athlone, who know that improvement is required in the coming weeks.
Cabinteely have won two of their last four matches in the league, thumping Athlone by 5-1 at Stradbrook last month.
Kick-off at Lissywollen is at 7.45pm.