Cobh Ramblers 5 Athlone Town 1
TWO penalties for Cobh Ramblers in as many minutes both converted by skipper Chris ‘Kaka’ McCarthy swept the claret-and-blues to their biggest win of the season and to the top of the First Division table at St Colman’s Park on Saturday afternoon.
In an extraordinary sequence of events, Ramblers were awarded two spot kicks in the 28th and 30th minutes and team skipper McCarthy led by example scoring from both and sending Lithuanian goalkeeper, Igor Labuts the wrong way on each occasion.
Cobh’s unbeaten start to their league campaign continued apace as they beat an Athlone side that resembled a ‘League of Nations’ with Irish, Portuguese, Lithuanian and a player from Uruguay in their team selection.
With Dean Swords out due to a foot injury, manager Stephen Henderson went with Ross Mann leading the attack, with Scott McCarthy the only change from the side that drew 1-1 with Shelbourne last weekend.
Ben O’Riordan crashed a header off the bar from Craig Donnellan’s tenth minute corner and Jose Viegas side-footed wide at the other end before the game took a dramatic double twist with those two penalty kick awards by Dublin-based referee, David Berry who is new to the League of Ireland panel this season.
Ross Mann was fouled by Labuts as he chased Chris McCarthy’s dinked ball over the top and McCarthy sent the ‘keeper the wrong way in the 28th minute.
Two minutes later, and Cobh had a second spot kick when Craig Donnellan was upended by full-back Fredrico Hernandez in the penalty area and this time McCarthy opted for the opposite corner and again sent the unfortunate Labuts the wrong way from 12 yards.
Former Limerick and U19 international Mann was close to a third goal just before half-time but was denied by a combination of the post and the keeper.
Athlone won their first corner of the afternoon on the hour before Ramblers made it 3-0 on 62 minutes when Ross Mann fed man of the match Stephen Christopher with a slide rule pass and he rolled the ball right-footed past the advancing Labuts to the net.
New signing Cian Coleman scored on his league debut after coming on as a 65th minute substitute for his skipper McCarthy when he headed home after the unhappy Labuts failed to collect Anthony O’Donnell’s free into the danger zone just seven minutes from the end of this one-sided clash.
Goal number five arrived on 85 minutes as Cobh ripped their opponents apart once more to regain possession and Christopher stroked the ball home to complete the rout.
Athlone’s first real attempt at goal saw debutant Walter Invernizzi’s cross from the right go over the head of Ramblers’ full back Shane Lowth, but Jose Viegas volleyed wide from 12 yards range with the goal at his mercy mid-way through the opening half.
The visitors finally had the benefit of a late consolation goal when substitute Ethan Keogh fired home off the crossbar to beat Paul Hunt in the home goal.
But it was Ramblers’ day as Stephen Henderson’s young side walked off the field to the sound of the crowd chanting: “top of the league and we’re having a laugh”.
On this evidence, the ‘Town’s new Portuguese manager, Ricardo Monsanto from Lisbon has a job of work on his hands and it will take time for all these new players and different nationalities to gel and come together as a unit.
Several of the Athlone players are not in Ireland that long but this hammering was a bit of a culture shock for all concerned.
COBH (4-1-4-1): Hunt; Lowth, O’Riordan, McSweeney, O’Donnell; C. McCarthy (c); Christopher, Donnellan, Caulfield, S McCarthy; Mann.
Subs: Coleman & Whelan for C. McCarthy & Mann (both 65 mins), Fleming for Lowth (78 mins), Murphy, McNamara & Sadys (not used).
ATHLONE (4-4-1-1): Labuts; Hernandez, Raftery, Grigorous, Brookes; Barry, Sfrijan, Coss (c), Viegas; Feeney; Invernizzi.
Subs: Lyons for Feeney (56 mins), Keogh for Barry (injured 69 mins), Gaffey for Brookes (86 mins), Dempsey, Maloney, King, & Gleeson (not used).
Referee: David Berry (Dublin).