Sub Ian Sweeney earns Athlone Town a valuable point
Athlone Town 1 Shamrock Rovers 1
Ultimately it was a case of one point gained for Athlone Town and two dropped for Shamrock Rovers.
Just when it appeared as if a dominant second-half display would be sufficient to outwit basement boys Athlone, Rovers were caught out by a stunning goal from substitute Ian Sweeney.
Leading courtesy of a 57th-minute Karl Sheppard header, Rovers were on the verge of victory, but Athlone restored parity.
Chances had been scarce at the outset as the Hoops had to wait until the 31st minute to create an opening, but Gary McCabe headed Simon Madden's cross wide.
Rovers dictated the third quarter, claiming a deserved lead. David O'Connor's delivery caused panic in the Athlone area and Sheppard supplied a sweet glancing header. But Athlone's Sweeney flared to prominence with a sublime 80th minute leveller.
Rovers summoned one late burst, but Athlone goalkeeper Ryan Coulter denied replacement Dean Kelly. Athlone skipped away encouraged, hopeful that an instant relegation can be avoided.
ATHLONE TOWN - Coulter; Hayes, Prendergast, D Brennan, Knight; S Brennan, Dillon, Foley (Mulroy 67), Doyle (Sweeney 71); Hughes; Gorman.
Shamrock Rovers - Murphy; Madden, Kenna, McGuinness, D O'Connor; Brennan (S O'Connor 46), Bayly (Cregg 83), McPhail, McCabe; Finn (Kelly 71); Sheppard.
Ref - P Sutton (Clare).