A 88th minute strike from second half substitute Valerii Dolia saw Athlone Town snatch all three points and deny a brave Kerry FC defensive display at a windswept Mounthawk Park.
Kerry FC opened brightly with a strong wind to their backs but it was a tricky wind as it saw lots of ball been over hit as Kerry FC tried to breach a well organised Athlone Town defence. Ronan Teahan and Leo Gaxha were involved early on in setting up Kevin Williams who was taken down by Matthew Leal and the Athlone midfielder was shown a yellow card. Ryan Kelliher decided to have a go from the resultant free kick 30 yards but his weak effort was charged down by the wall.
Kerry FC created a half chance in 12th minute when a long kick-out from Wayne Guthrie was headed on to Leo Gaxha who turned but his shot was charged down by Haji Abdikadir. Gleeson then found Graham O’Reilly who raced in from the right but he shot into the side netting.
Kerry FC then won two corners but the deliveries did not trouble the Athlone defence before Kerry FC produced their best move of the half when Keane, Kelliher and Sean Connell saw the latter put in a low cross that saw Gaxha turn on the proverbial sixpence but slipped as he was about to shoot to the net. Athlone Town did threaten on the break when a Connolly free found Isaie Louis whose shot was blocked and Franz Pierrot flashed the loose ball wide as the sides retired scoreless at the break.
Athlone Town should have taken the lead in the first attack of the second half when Louis beat O’Reilly on the left and whipped in a dangerous cross that Pierrot got on the end off but his goal bound effort was taken off the line by Sean O’Connell.
Athlone Town almost broke the deadlock in the 57th minute when Pierrot’s shot was saved brilliantly by Guthrie but it deflected off a Kerry FC defender and Guthrie turned it behind for Athlone Town’s first corner. The visitors then camped in the Kerry half and forced three corners in quick succession, the third another super save from Guthrie from Franz Pierrot. But Kerry FC somehow managed to weather the storm and Graham O’Reilly just failed to get his cross in.
Kerry FC were again fortunate in the 71st minute when a defender allowed the ball to bounce and Graham O’Reilly was forced to take the ball off the line.
Kerry FC then almost scored in the 82nd minute when Nathan Gleeson was taken down on the edge of the box but the free kick was wasted. But the inevitable happened in the 88th minute when Patrick Hickey crossed for Pierrot to play in Ukrainian substitute Valerii Dolia who beat Guthrie at his near post with a fine strike.
: Wayne Guthrie; Graham O’Reilly; Kevin Gleeson, Shane Guthrie, Jonathan Hannafin, Sean O’Connell; Leo Gaxha, Matt Keane, Ronan Teahan, Nathan Gleeson; Ryan Kelliher Subs: Sean Kennedy for Gaxha (66), Sean McGrath for Gleeson (86), Cian Brosnan for O’Connell (90), Kennedy Amechi for Kelliher (90)
Enda Minogue; German Funtes Rodrigues, Noah van Geenen, Aaron McBride , Haji Abdikadir ; Patrick Hickey, Adam Lennon, Aaron Connolly, Matthew Leal, Isaie Louis, Franz Pierrot Subs: Oisin Duffy for McBride (h/t), Charles Mutawe for Leal (h/t), Valerii Dolia for Louis (inj 71), Matthew McCarrick for Lennon (90).
Ian O’Keeffe (Waterford Utd)