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Table toppers Galway Utd are expecting nothing easy against Athlone

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From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Table toppers Galway Utd are expecting nothing easy against Athlone Table toppers Galway Utd are expecting nothing easy against Athlone

WHEN Declan Toland blew the full-time whistle in Eamonn Deacy Park back on October 7 last season, the Athlone Town bench erupted in celebration as the Midlands side had finally won a league game at the Dyke Road venue after a 25 year wait since their previous success, back in February 1997, Thomas Oluwa’s late goal sealing a 2-1 win.

Then, after Frantz Pierrot gave them a 35th minute lead in the first league meeting between the sides at Lissywollen back in March, you began to wonder had United’s Midlands bogey managed to stretch the 25 miles from Longford down to the one-stand ground off the side of the N6 Athlone bypass.

Two goals from David Hurley, and another from Stephen Walsh, saw order restored as United claimed a 3-1 win that night, but those two most recent meetings with the league’s oldest club will serve as a warning that United need to be switched on from the start when they welcome the Town to Eamonn Deacy Park this Friday (7.45pm).

Athlone managed just seven wins in 32 league games last season, but they are a much improved side this campaign and are just about in the play-off spots with six wins from 15 so far in 2023. What is even more impressive is that they have managed that despite what appears to be incredible managerial turmoil at the club.

Dermot Lennon and Gordon Brett started the 2023 season as joint managers, before Lennon stepped down in April. Portuguese coach Dario Castelo then apparently took the reins; then Brett stepped back in, before stepping down again; with Emelio Williams taking over as caretaker manager last weekend for the game away to Cobh Ramblers, in which just one Irish-born player featured for Athlone in the 2-2 draw.

“Seemingly in the last couple of weeks, because they weren’t playing their foreign players, the manager lost their job. Maybe that is the route they are going down, and they have said that they are going to bring six [players] in at the break and be totally professional for the second half of the season,” United manager, John Caulfield, said ahead of this Friday’s game.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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