Athlone Town slump to surprising defeat as Kerry FC achieve historic league victory


John Dingle

History was made in Lissywollen on Friday night last as Kerry FC recorded their first competitive victory since joining the League of Ireland First Division for the 2023 season.

In their first ever visit to Athlone, the Kingdom outfit edged out the Town following a five goal thriller last Friday night. The visitors raced into an early two goal lead but Athlone had drawn level by the midway point of the second half. The Kerry lead was soon restored though as the hosts were unable to again restore parity in spite of piling on the pressure.

Gordon Brett’s team selection for Athlone was affected by the first suspension as Noah VanGeenen served a one match ban for an accumulation of yellow cards, Aaron McBride coming in for his first start of the season. On paper, this should have been an easy win for the Town as Kerry had lost all but two of their thirteen games played since joining the league. The weakest attack and the worst defence also pointed towards an Athlone victory.

Kerry, though, had been unlucky in some of their recent outings and a first win looked not far away. The visitors could not have asked for a better start as they raced into a two goal lead by the midway point of the opening half. Athlone had been on top early on but then allowed Kerry too much space in crucial sectors. With just five minutes elapsed, Adam Lennon had the chance to open the scoring but saw his effort cleared. Patrick Hickey was next to try his luck for the Town but again Kerry cleared the shot off the line.

Those early attempts, had they been put away, might have changed the outcome but Kerry received a boost when taking the lead after 17 minutes. Ryan Kelliher was allowed too much space on the edge of the penalty area and his shot on the turn flew over Vlad Velikin into the roof of the net. It got even better for the Kingdom players as they doubled their lead through Nathan Gleeson. Having been shocked by the two early scores, Athlone were handed a lifeline just before the half time break when an own goal reduced the deficit.

The introduction of Blake Ryan for the second half added extra impetus to the home attack as Brett changed tack. The substitute was busy on the left and sent in some inviting crosses. Pierrot had the chance to level matters just before the hour mark but fired just wide. The comeback looked to have been completed when Athlone grabbed an equaliser after 68 minutes. Valerii Dolia had been the match winner in the previous meeting of the teams in Tralee and was again on target.

It was now expected that the Town would push on and win the game but Kerry had other ideas as instead they were next to score as Kelliher grabbed what proved to be the winning goal with a shot which Athlone claimed had not crossed the line.


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