Athlone Town -v- Waterford UnitedSat, Oct 13 2012
Athlone host Waterford United in Lissywoollen in the final game of a season that can be firmly filed under “disappointing”.
But it wasn’t always thus for the Midlanders as when the league resumed after the mid-season break Mick Kerley and his men seemed the most likely to launch a tilt for third place and a promotion play-off spot.
Alas for Kerley, who paid the ultimate price, the second half of the season was a disaster with an abysmal run of results that saw Athlone overtaken by Waterford and eventually, Wexford and Finn Harps.
Performances were better than the results suggested but the table doesn’t lie and the Midlanders will be glad to get this season out of the way and get time to assess where it all went wrong.
They will also need to decide if Padraig Moran, who replaced Kerley towards the end of the season, will be the man to take charge next season.
Speaking to the Westmeath Independent Moran was anxious to clarify his position as he feels preparation for the next campaign must begin immediately.
"I'd like the opportunity to put my own stamp on it. The squad needs a complete overhaul. Now is the time to set-up new signings, and put a proper pre-season plan together. You can't get away with doing that in January."
Padraig Moran has Joe Woods suspended after his sending off last weekend against Wexford Youths while injuries to Stephen Last and Noel McGee will keep them both out of the game and goalkeeper Pat Jennings who took a heavy knock in last weekend’s game in Wexford is struggling with a rib injury.
Niall Scullion is also unavailable due to work commitments but Val Feeney returns to the squad after missing out on the last two games as he was on international duty with the Republic of Ireland U17 squad in Macedonia.
Waterford appeared to be gripped by white line fever as their impressive form in the second half of the season deserted them when they seemed poised to challenge Limerick for the automatic promotion position.
That said a second placed finish looked a long way off when they were demolished 6-0 in their opening day fixture by Wexford Youths. The club can thank their scintillating form in the second half of the season where they became the in-form side, going on an eight match unbeaten run upon the league’s resumption that propelled into the promotion play-off spots.
Last weekend’s loss to Mervue saw Limerick claim the title with a game in hand and left manager Paul O’Brien rueing the opportunity missed of taking the race to the final day.
Speaking to the club’s website he was also cautioned against burdening his young players with the weight of expectation.
"People will have to remember that Daragh Walshe and Sean Maguire are young players. Daragh is only 21 years old and Seanie is only 18. Expectations bring fear and we probably expect those lads to score every time they get a chance, but they are only learning the game, they are not experienced players who have been around for years. We will go head-on now for promotion, and hopefully we will have five games left to play, including the last League game against Athlone Town."
O'Brien again has an almost full panel to select from, apart from long-term injury absentee Gary Dunphy, and Seamus Long, who serves the automatic ban for his red card against Mervue, but may elect to field a weakened side with one eye on the play-offs.
Referee: J McKell
Games between the sides this season show an advantage in favour of Waterford with the previous meeting in Athlone Town Stadium showing a 4-1 victory while the other two games in the RSC finished in draws.
Since Waterford United returned to the First Division in 2008 Athlone have yet to collect all three points, securing eight draws from the sixteen games played.
Noel McGhee has scored both goals for Athlone against Waterford in their encounters this season.
Athlone Town 21/10: Draw 11/5: Waterford United 23/20
Athlone Town 1-1 Waterford United
Athlone Town Injury News: Stephen Last, Noel McGhee. Pat Jennings (doubtful). Niall Scullion (unavailable).
Athlone Town Suspension News: Joe Woods
Waterford United Injury News: Gary Dunphy
Waterford United Suspension News: Seamus Long