There was a surprise announcement from Athlone Town last weekend as Aaron Callaghan was confirmed as first team manager with immediate effect.
It had been expected that Roddy Collins would continue in the role but, in a further twist, the flamboyant Dubliner was appointed to the new position of general manager.
Collins had come back to Athlone last May but was unable to prevent the Town from finishing the First Division campaign in bottom place. An announcement regarding a continuation of his tenure was expected, but a new role will now occupy his attentions. While the position is a new one for Athlone, its profile elsewhere has led to success. Pat Fenlon was appointed to a similar position in Waterford and oversaw a return to the top flight for the Blues in his first season.
Callaghan returns to a club he previously managed for a brief spell in 2004, which was less than successful. The 51-year-old then went on to take charge of midland rivals Longford Town followed by stints at Bohemians and UCD in his native Dublin. His most recent managerial position was in the Irish league with Carrick Rangers after serving as assistant to Collins at Waterford.
While guiding the County Antrim outfit to the league cup final, he left at the end of April just before the club was involved in a promotion/relegation play-off match, which they subsequently won. The record shows that Rangers won just four of the 29 league games with Callaghan in charge, gaining just a single point from their final six matches.
Callaghan, though, brings a wealth of experience both as a player and as manager to Athlone. A fine career in England which started with Stoke City ended at Preston North End, involving more than 200 appearances in total during a 10 year period. Having been one of the first Irish coaches to obtain the UEFA Pro licence in 2007, Callaghan has since enjoyed some success following retirement as a player.
Joining the new Town boss as assistant manager is Terry Butler, who has been with Callaghan in several of his previous managerial roles, including the most recent one at Carrick.
The task to revive Athlone's fortunes will be a tough one, with the First Division set to be very competitive in 2018. Relegated Drogheda, Finn harps and Galway will all be looking to bounce back to the top flight at the first time of asking, while Cobh and Cabinteely will also be expected to mount a serious challenge for honours.
The 10 team division will see each club play one another three times, with the fixtures set to be announced in the coming days. The champions will be guaranteed automatic promotion, with the next three finishers going into a promotion/relegation play off. The winners of that tie will then play the team which finishes ninth in the Premier Division to decide which club stays in or joins the top ranks. Fortunately, there are no midweek fixtures scheduled.