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The manager you don’t know from the club you might have forgotten

Conan Byrne catches up with Adrian Carberry to discuss the league and taking a risk with Athlone Town.

Athlone Town, a club with a rich heritage.
Athlone Town, a club with a rich heritage.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Updated at 17.06

YOU REMEMBER Athlone Town, right? Oldest club in League of Ireland history, once hosted the great AC Milan, two-time League winners.

So why is it that people rarely ever talk about them?

Okay, they are rooted to the foot of the First Division table and have been without a big-name player since Declan ‘Fabio’ O’Brien was winding down his career. But there’s more to them, right?

They have a decent stadium, teams performing at underage level, they’ll make their debut in the Women’s National League this coming weekend, and they also have one of the League’s brightest young managers in Adrian Carberry.

You may not know much about Carberry, I certainly didn’t. And Athlone’s social media team don’t do him any favours by referring to him by his nickname of ‘Cabsy’. Do us all a favour and show some respect, this is elite level football!

Carberry is someone who should have a higher profile. A UEFA Pro Licence holder, the former Athlone player made a significant impact in women’s football with Castlebar Celtic and the Republic of Ireland Women’s Under-19s, where he assisted Dave Connell, before returning to the town of Luan’s ford.

After speaking with Carberry for the guts of an hour, I discovered that we have a lot of things in common. We both agree that Liam Buckley was the best manager that we worked under, he is the only man in his house with young daughters keeping him on his toes much like myself and he was beaten in a League Cup Final against Derry City. But one thing stuck out more than most after our conversation: I felt better after listening to him talk about football.

Spotted by Athlone legend Mickey O’Connor whilst playing for St Peter’s, Carberry got his break at the club – even though it took eight months before making his debut – and he learned how to develop patience; something that would stand to him throughout his life.

Typical of many League stalwarts, his playing and managerial career is full of hard luck stories. His trophy cabinet is empty but his memories are packed with lessons learned from many people who aided him along the way.

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He mentions Buckley as a forward thinking coach who was ahead of his time when he became player/manager of Athlone in 1997. He converted Carberry from a steady left-back to a wiry centre forward, which culminated in him scoring 15 goals and leading to an eventual FAI Cup semi-final defeat.

Twice relegated, once via penalties with Athlone, the other was with the only other team he lined out for in the League, Galway United. Moves to Shelbourne and later Shamrock Rovers under Buckley didn’t materialise but Carberry was always more than happy to stay close to home.

He never wanted to be a coach. But encouragement from former Coach Educators Pauric Nicholson and the late Noel O’Reilly changed all of that. As far as O’Reilly was concerned, the fact that Carberry played at the top level meant he HAD to become a coach. Since then it has been an upward curve as he combined his day-to-day work with the FAI as a Development Officer in Roscommon with learning as much as he could to prepare himself for a manager’s job in the League.

adrian-carberry-2931998 Carberry in his playing days with Athlone. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Two Women’s Cup Finals with Castlebar Celtic in his first year – both ending in heartbreak – gave him a good ground for management. Then he made the most from working as assistant to his friend Dave Connell at international level. But he was always aiming to get that opportunity in the League and it arrived late last year with that old familiar club, Athlone.

He knew that he was taking on a very risky job, but that didn’t deter him one bit. In fact, Carberry jumped at the chance to make his mark. Since taking over, his mission has been to bring an identity back to the club. The first step in that was to move the training sessions out of Dublin and back to Athlone. Next, he wants to promote the best local players from their underage teams as he works on building a first team that is fiercely competitive so that the supporters can get behind them.

Carberry comes across as a manager you would want to play for. He is working hard alongside his assistant, Declan Considine, to instil a positive environment. He asks his players to be risk takers and be the best that they can be. He wants players to have a desire for playing for Athlone and for that experience to be fun and productive.

Patience has led Carberry to this opportunity and regardless of their current League position, or the false dawns that have pockmarked their recent existence, he sees it as the right place at the right time to affect change.

If anyone deserved a bit of luck on this venture it is Adrian Carberry.

Originally published at 11.08

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