Heartache for Cooke as late goal extends Athlone woes
Athlone Town 0 Dundalk 1
For Mick Cooke, the Athlone Town manager, last night was one of his lowest moments of a 40-year career as his side lost for a ninth successive time to equal the worst start any side has made to a League of Ireland season.
As if this wasn't dispiriting enough for a proud football man whose career dates back to 'the black and white days', there was a sense of injustice to further darken his mood.
Deep into stoppage time, Athlone were set to win their first point of the season and record a deserved draw against second-placed Dundalk. Then, a punt forward from Mark Rossiter was controlled brilliantly by Darren Meenan, who was innocently challenged in the Athlone box by Declan Brennan.
However, in referee Graham Kelly's eyes, Brennan's tackle was illegal. He pointed to the spot and Richie Towell kept his nerve to send Craig Sexton the wrong way and secure a valuable win for the Lilywhites.
"I am absolutely devastated," said Cooke. "If you were a neutral and you came to that game and you didn't know which team was second in the league and which was bottom, you'd say we were the team challenging for the title.
"We were the better side, outplayed them for long spells and exploited them down their left side.
"Then, in injury time, a decision like that goes against you. It's infuriating because their player was barely touched.
"For us to lose again is horrible and to have nine defeats at this stage of the season is an even worse feeling but seven of those losses have been by the odd goal and we should have won half of them."
Athlone Town – Sexton; Quigley (Sweeney 86), D Brennan, McMahon, Clancy; O'Brien, Dillon, Hughes, Byrne, S Brennan (Marks 74); Gorman
Dundalk – Cherrie; Gannon, Rossiter, Boyle, Massey; Meenan, Towell, Mountney (McMillan 60), Higgins, Horgan (Byrne 46); Hoban (Griffin 84)
REF – G Kelly (Cork)