The hosts were very competitive in the first half and were somewhat unlucky to concede a close range goal to Mark O’Sullivan just before the break, but the visitors moved through the gears in the second half and even though it was two long balls that created second half goals for Billy Dennehy and Liam Kearney, City always looked far more slick going forward.
For long stretches of the first half it looked as if this would be the night that Athlone would pick up their first positive result of the new season. They competed aggressively for loose possession around the middle and in James O’Brien, they had a livewire playmaker who always looked to put them on the front foot.
City had their moments too in the early stages, particularly when Darren Dennehy got good purchase on a Billy Dennehy cross and only missed the far post narrowly with a tenth minute header, but the home supporters had more to shout about, forcing four corners and plenty of half chances in the opening period.
Philip Gorman’s physical presence was a constant threat but his high work rate and combative approach wasn’t matched by accurate finishing and he was off target with both a header and a close range shot from a tight angle.
In a game with little to call between the sides, a mistake was always a potential source of the first goal and that was partially the case when Athlone failed to deal with a left wing cross in the 43rd minute and instead only deflected play out to the far wing. Billy Dennehy took control and hit a glorious delivery, behind the back four but tantalisingly far in front of Paul Skinner in the Athlone goal. When the Town custodian hesitated, Mark O’Sullivan pounced to scoop the ball home from the six-yard line.
Athlone briefly started the second half with intent and tempo, and within seven seconds of the restart James O’Brien had cut his way into the Cork City half and got a shot away, though he missed the target.
A minute later however their hopes were all but crushed when again, a failure to deal with a long ball over the top saw Liam Kearney slip the ball past the keeper, enabling Dennehy to touch in an easy goal to double the lead.
Athlone continued to press for the duration of the second half and at times they looked lively in possession, but the City defence held firm and Mark McNulty never had to deal with anything that would have tested him too severely.
Cork moved the ball about well on the break and they got plenty of joy down both flanks but when their third goal did come, yet again it was from a long ball over the top. This time Liam Kearney was on the end of a hacked clearance and as he bore down on goal and saw Skinner advancing, he didn’t hesitate to blast the ball into the roof of the net from 10 yards out.
ATHLONE TOWN: P Skinner, K Dillon, C McMahon, D Prendergast, S Byrne, A Byrne, G Rusk, S Brennan, J O’Brien, J Marks, P Gorman.
Subs: I Sweeney for S Byrne (53), D Brennan for Rusk (81), M Hughes for Marks (81).
CORK CITY: M McNulty, B Lenihan, D Murray, D Dennehy, J Dunleavy, C Healy, J Kavanagh, G Morrissey, B Dennehy, G Buckley, M O’Sullivan.
Subs: L Kearney for Kavanagh (HT), D O’Leary for Buckley (66), I Turner for OSullivan (80).
Referee: Rob Harvey.