There was a major surprise as the new season in the First Division got underway when Athlone Town shocked title favourites Waterford FC in Lissywollen last Friday night (February 24 ).
Having invested heavily in a new squad during the closed season, the visitors were expected to get off to a flying start, but a late goal from Colm Coss ensured it was the hosts that were celebrating at the finish.
Home fans may have been fearing more of the same old problems when the floodlights at Lissywollen failed before kick-off, but after a delay of an hour the issue was resolved and both teams took to the pitch.
Waterford enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges but found new Town goalkeeper Igors Labuts in commanding form between the posts.
Team captain Kenny Browne and Garry Comerford had chances for the Blues, but Athlone had the best chance to open the scoring after half an hour when Jose Viegas was denied by the keeper. There was little to separate the teams though in the half, and it was no surprise when the teams went in level at the interval.
Waterford were on top again in the early stages of the second half. The first chance on the resumption of play fell to the visitors from a corner kick, but found Labuts again on top of his game.
Athlone replied when Molloy fired a long-range effort wide, and when Shane O’Connor fired wide on the hour mark with the goal at his mercy, the hosts sensed victory.
The breakthrough finally arrived with three minutes left to play. Athlone full back David Brookes battled hard to regain possession from Waterford and set up Athlone captain Coss on the edge of the penalty area, whose strike flew past the keeper to stun the visitors.
It is early days in the league campaign, but for the moment Athlone can feel reasonably content as they sit proudly at the top of the table alongside UCD.