A Brief History Of Athlone Town Football Club

FOUNDED in 1887 by Orlando Robert Coote, Athlone Town is the oldest club in the eircom League. While not a founder member of the League (Athlone joined a year later in 1922), the Club did participate in the inaugural Free State (FAI) Cup.

And it wasn't long until the Blue Riband of Irish football was making its way out of the Capital, and down to the midlands.

In 1924, Athlone Town won the Free State Cup for the one and only time, but did so in style. Beating Bohs and Shels along the way, not one goal was conceeded. Recognition soon followed, with five members of the side that beat Fordsons in the Final; Dinny Hannon, Frank Ghent, Paddy Reilly, John Joe Dykes and Tommy Muldoon all selected on the first ever side to represnt Ireland in the 1924 Olympic Games held in Paris.

Despite this early Cup success, a failure to make any real impact in the League saw the Club drop out in 1929. A full 40 years were to pass before Athlone Town played with the big boys again - when they were elected to the League along with Finn Harps in 1969. Success was a little slower to arrive this time, but in 1975 Town were runners-up in the League to Bohemians, thus earning entry to the UEFA Cup.

And so on August 18th 1975, the Vikings of Valerengen came, and saw, but they did not conquer. Athlone won their first ever European match 3 - 1 in St. Mel's Park before doing enough in the second leg with a 1 - 1 draw in Oslo. Athlone Town were in the draw for the Second Round of the UEFA Cup. The rest is of course history......

.....but for those among you that don't know your history, we shall fill you in. The Club were drawn at home to the mighty AC Milan in the next round. Mick O'Brien, John Duffy, Andy Stevenson, Dougie Wood, Kevin Smith, Noel Larkin, Carl Humphries, Eugene 'Pooch' Davis, John Minnock, Paul Martin and Terry Daly, assisted by substitutes Joe Healy and Cyril Barnicle went out and held the Italian giants to a 0 - 0 draw. Despite losing the second leg 3 - 0 in the San Siro, the pride in their first leg feat lives on to this day, and rightly so.

Town's Golden Era was to soon follow under the guidance of Turlough O'Connor. The League Championship was won twice and the League Cup was won three times, with the Tyler All-Ireland Cup also making it's way to St. Mel's Park during O'Connor's five year tenure. It is fair to say that the Club have failed to reach such heights again since, but plans are in place to bring Athlone Town back to their rightful place at the fore of Irish football.

Work is continuing on the Club's new 6,000 all-seater stadium which will see the Club vacate St. Mel's Park after over 80 years, during the up-coming 2006 season.

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