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Dublin: 9°C Saturday 17 April 2021

Declan O'Brien hat-trick helps Drogheda edge Athlone

Two late goals from the visitors set up a tense finale.

Declan O'Brien scored for Drogheda tonight (file pic).
Declan O'Brien scored for Drogheda tonight (file pic).
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Drogheda United 3

Athlone Town 2

IT WAS A story of reacquaintance at United Park as Mick Cooke returned to Drogheda for the first time since his acrimonious departure. He named five former Drogs in his Athlone team but it was a hat-trick from ex-Town man Declan O’Brien that proved the scourge of the league’s bottom club.

United boss Robbie Horgan worked as a coach under Cooke as he guided Drogheda to a top-two finish in 2012 and several memorable cup final appearances. He has obviously retained the knack for ensuring his sides punch well above their weight.

This 3-2 win, made all the more nervy when Athlone struck twice late on, sent Drogheda to second in the league, behind early pacesetters Cork City and the Claret and Blue remain unbeaten. For Athlone, their search for a first Premier Division point continues.

A fairly drab first half was lit up by the game’s opening goal. It took just eight minutes for Gavin Brennan to release Shane Grimes down the left and his excellent cross was met by O’Brien.

The veteran striker finished in the way few others can to leave Paul Skinner with no chance.

Athlone played their part in the match. Their high tempo caused the hosts problems and their forward players — including three Drogs alumni in Graham Rusk, Sean Brennan and Jason Marks — looked lively.

The final ball was what they missed ultimately, although they did go close when Rusk played a ball across the six-yard box. Philly Gorman couldn’t reach it and although it fell to Marks at the far post, he skied his effort.

O’Brien added his second shortly after the re-start. From Foley’s corner, he nodded home at the back post for his fifth league goal of the campaign. Then, on 71 minutes, he latched onto a Gary O’Neill pass to slot past Skinner for his sixth.

Mick Cooke was critical of his side’s inability to score after last week’s defeat to Cork and at least they found their shooting boots late on here when Gorman headed in Brennan’s corner late on and then met another Brennan delivery to reduce the deficit further.

Just as the clock ticked into injury time, Athlone substitute Stephen Quigley, himself a former Drogheda man, was dismissed for a high challenge on Brennan.

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The last time these two had met in the Premier Division was back in 1995/96 when both suffered relegation. On this evidence, Drogheda will have no such worries this year while Athlone, despite their late flurry, may be acquainted with the drop zone for some time to come. Gorman will be key to their hopes.

Other results:

DROGHEDA UNITED: David Ryan, Shane Grimes, Alan McNally, Gavan Holohan, Gary O’Neill, Gavin Brennan [c], Ciaran McGuigan, Carl Walshe (Mick Daly, 74), Daire Doyle, Declan O’Brien, Eric Foley (Stephen Maher, 63).

Substitutes: Dylan Connolly, Michael Daly, Paul Andrews, Austin McCann, Ciaran O’Connor, Stephen Maher, Philly Hughes.

ATHLONE TOWN: Paul Skinner, Sean Byrne, Derek Prendergast, Aidan Collins (Conor McMahon, 73), Kealan Dillon (Stephen Quigley 73), Philly Gorman, Sean Brennan, Barry Clancy, Graham Rusk, James O’Brien, Jason Marks (Ian Sweeney, 56).

Substitutes: Craig Sexton, Conor McMahon, Mark Hughes, Ian Sweeney, Niall Scullion, Declan Brennan, Stephen Quigley.


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Barry Landy

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