Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Athlone Town FC 1, Blues 0 (24/1/17, Lisseywoolen, Athlone)

After all the hype of the last few weeks; after the long awaited build up to the first game of the new season; after all the high expectations of the fans, the buzz, the excitement..... this was a real bummer of a result. Despite dominating possession from start to finish the Blues were unable to penetrate up front and conceded the only goal of the game a few minutes from the end to the bookies' favourite to finish last in Division 1. Blues fans heading home after this game were sure of one thing - Paddy Power got it well wrong when he predicted that Athlone would finish bottom of the pile. Without doubt they put in a more than decent shift and were far more dangerous going forward than the Blues right through the game.

Kick off was delayed for thirty minutes because of floodlight failure or should it be said, Athlone Town failure. Astonishingly the lights at Lisseywoolen are powered by a generator. They came on and went off several times like on a Christmas tree and the game was in real danger of postponement until it eventually got underway after 8.15 pm. And when it did start it was clear that the light was far short of satisfactory. Numerous individual units were not working and areas of the pitch were very poorly lit. How did Athlone get a licence this year? And the difficulties did not finish with the lights.....the condition of the pitch was akin to a poor one in a public park anywhere in the country, an observation that might offend hard working Co. Co. staff in places. In really was very poor.

That said, there can be no real complaint at the result carved out by the home side whose ragball assortment of players from all corners, really impressed at times. Athlone may have had huge problems off the field in the build up to the new season but they might just have the right formula on it.

Hard to pick out any star performers for the Blues on the night, such was the lack of threat in the second half of the field. Seldom did they put the home goal under pressure and when Mark O'Sullivan did find a way through and to put the ball in the net during the second half, he was ruled offside. Captain Kenny Browne needs some time before his game reaches the level of his ability. Keeper Ian McLoughlin on his debut in a blue shirt, pulled off some good saves. Tom Smith showed his determination with one covering tackle in the first half that earned him a booking. In time he will be a big favourite with Blues' fans.

The travelling Blues outnumbered the home fans. An estimated 150 were there to see the game. A firm indication of where the club is going will be be seen next Friday night at the RSC when Cabinteely play the Blues. Hopefully a decent crowd will be there. Nothing but an emphatic win will do to prevent the knockers popping at the club. In many ways this could be the most important game of the season.

The result last Friday was in some respects a freak, maybe even a blessing. The Blues were well below par and did not deserve to win. It could be the kick in the ass they needed. They are capable on a good day of beating all teams in the division and they will have the opportunity to start doing that on Friday. Go for it, Blues.

C'mon the Blues!

Blues: Ian McLoughlin, Jake Evans, Shane O'Connor, Patrick McLean, Kenny Browne, Tom Smith, Kenny McEvoy, Garry Comerford, Mark O'Sullivan, Sander Puri, Dean O'Halloran (Derek Daly '62). Subs: Dave Mulcahy, Dean Walsh, Anthony McAlavey, David McDaid, Robin Dempsey, Matt Connor.

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