Athlone v Tubberclair Play Off

Athlone v Tubberclair 3 Sept 2011

Athlone 1-9 Tubberclair 0-7

They say it is better to nearly drown than to nearly be saved. Five straight championship defeats left our senior footballers in danger of making the drop down out of senior football for the first time in the clubs history. After a somewhat nervous display the town side had five points to spare in the end thereby saving our senior status.

Having parted company with manager Malachy Gately after the group games, former club stalwart John Hickey and his sidekick Dave Lukeman took charge. Much credit is due to the Ennis based pair for coming on board as a new voice and new ideas certainly played a part in getting an improved performance from our side.

The surprisingly large crowd in Tang witnessed a tense opening half in which Athlone struggled to put scores on the board despite winning the lion’s share of possession. Indeed it was Tubberclare who held a slender 0-5 to 0-4 halftime lead.

With Fergal Murray, Noel Mulligan and Brian Gill leading by example at the back and Paul Bannon and Robbie Henshaw dominating the midfield exchanges Athlone should have been well out of sight long before Dermie McManus blasted the all important goal beyond the reach of Gary Connaughton with ten minutes remaining.

Ten minutes into the second half Tubberclare still had their noses in front but the evergreen Tom Trainor fisted over the all important equalizer. It was fitting that John Egan, who delayed a trip to Italy to make himself available for this crunch tie, kicked Athlone into the lead. From then on there was only going to be one winner.

Ray Connellan’s introduction had the desired effect as he livened up the attack and scored a great individual point. Leading by 4 points with less than five minutes remaining Paul Bannon wisely tapped a penalty kick over the bar.

While it may not have been a champagne performance the result was paramount. Despite the disappointment of ending up in relegation trouble it may be the kick we need to push forward in the coming years.

With young players of the calibre of Dermot Piggott, Brian Gill, Robbie Henshaw, Ray Connellan and Andy Lynam and many more besides the future certainly looks bright for the club.

Fair play to Mickey Greene who interrupted his honeymoon to play his part in the win and to John Egan who changed his travel plans. Selectors Denis O Sullivan, James ‘Slipper’ Kilroy and Fergal O Toole deserve special mention for their commitment this year as does team co-ordinator Padraig ‘Jack’ O Rourke. Thanks also to Fergal Lynam of IO Systems who sponsored new tops and jerseys for the senior panel.

Credit also to all those die-hards who supported the team through thick and thin this year. It’s a while since we had such support at a game and it was appreciated. The large cheer which greeted Dermie McManus goal surprised many. A great night was had by all back in the clubhouse apres match. Hopefully in the coming years we have plenty of similar nights with a dash of silverware thrown in. 

Team- D Costello, D Pigott, G Quinn, F Murray, B Gill, D Kelly, N Mulligan, R Henshaw, P Bannon, J Egan, M Greene, J Connellan, J Fallon, T Trainor, D McManus. Subs used R Connellan, A Lynam

by Joe Fallon 5/9/11