An inspired goalkeeping performance by Cabinteely’s Mick Kelly last Friday night (July 14 ) thwarted Athlone Town in their bid to hand new manager Roddy Collins a long overdue first win of the campaign.
Jason Lyons had put the home side ahead just before the half-time break, but an early equaliser after the restart earned the visitors a share of the spoils. Collins admitted afterwards that had his recent acquisition, Enda Curran, started up front he would have grabbed a hat-trick of goals, such were the chances created.
With new signings Stephen Walsh at the heart of the defence and Claudio Silva in midfield making the starting line-up, the new-look Athlone team were positive in their approach to the game.
Goalkeeper Kelly made the first of a number of fine saves when denying Conor Barry and then Liam McCarton in quick succession, as Athlone enjoyed a bright start. Niall Scullion and Ethan Keogh were next to test the keeper on what was proving to be a frustrating night for the hosts.
The deadlock was finally broken after 38 minutes as Cabinteely appealed in vain for an offside decision from the referee. An away attack broke down as a swift counter-offensive which followed saw Lyons race clear with McCarton offering support if needed. The Town striker went around the keeper inside the penalty area to find the net from a tight angle in spite of the efforts of a Cabinteely defender to clear the ball off the line. The lead was carried into half time, but there was a blow for Athlone late in the half when Barry was forced off through injury.
On the resumption of play, Athlone were hoping to push on and claim a precious win, but were caught cold as Cabinteely equalised two minutes into the half. The danger from an attack down the left was not cleared and Joe Doyle took advantage with a low shot past the keeper’s left from the edge of the penalty area.
On his debut after joining from Midlands rivals Longford Town, Stephen Walsh headed over following a free kick, with Kelly then pulling off another fine save on the hour mark. A Rob Spelman left-sided free kick fell to McCarton, who looked set to score only for the keeper to block the shot. A rare away chance fell to Ryan Swan with 10 minutes remaining but his effort was pushed behind by Igor Labuts.
The home frustration continued until the final minute as once more Kelly did well to again deny Scullion by tipping over his fierce volley. A further corner followed but Cabinteely held out to return home with a scarcely deserved share of the spoils, mainly thanks to the heroics of Kelly between the posts.
Athlone are away for the next fortnight, starting their travels with a trip to Belfield on Friday, July 21, to take on promotion-seeking UCD.