With maximum points from their first two games under their belts, Brendan Place’s side are looking to make a little bit of club history by becoming the first Athlone team since the one managed by the legendary Turlough O’Connor in 1984/85 to win three games on the trot.
For City boss Tommy Dunne, the goal is to bounce back from the 0-2 loss to Waterford last Friday, a game which saw Greg O’ Halloran sent off and therefore ineligible for this evening’s match.
Says Dunne: “Greg being suspended does present a difficulty for us, but we have added a couple of players to the squad since the opening game, so that does give us a few more options. It will be a tough fixture for us. Athlone have had a good start to the season.”
Davin O’Neill is again doubtful for Cork with a hamstring injury, but Dunne hopes that the forward will be available. New signing Gearóid Morrissey is still recovering from a back injury, and will sit out this clash, but the manager is hopeful that he will be fit for next week’s game against Mervue.
Tonight’s match kicks off at 7.30pm.
Up in the Premier Division this evening, Sean Connor returns to the Showgrounds in Sligo as manager of Galway United (kick off 7.45pm). Indeed, there’s more than a hint of family reunion about the ties as, along with Connor, this will also be a return to their old stomping ground for Gareth Gorman, Jamie McKenzie, Derek O’Brien, Gary Curran and Ciaran Foley, while Alan Keane and Iarfhlaith Davoren face their former team-mates again.
A win over Bray Wanderers has got points up and running for the Tribesman, but Connor thinks improvement is required to match a Sligo Rovers side that remain unbeaten despite having already faced two of the fancied teams this season.
“We’ll need a major step-up in performance to compete and if we play like we did in the first 30 minutes against Bray we’ll have a chance,” says Connor. “But if we don’t play like that we’ll get a lashing. They have drawn away against Sporting Fingal and Shamrock Rovers so they have played some quality opposition already. I’m sure Paul Cook would be delighted with two points against those two teams.”
Meanwhile, the aforementioned Hoops, smarting from that home defeat to St Pats, are back in action tomorrow as they host Dundalk at the Tallaght Stadium (kick off 3.34pm, live on RTE 2)