Friday 21 September 2018

Athlone's troubles deepen as Aaron Callaghan resigns after 'final straw'

The patience of 51-year-old Callaghan finally wore out following Monday night’s Leinster Senior League fixture against Shelbourne. Photo: David Maher/SPORTSFILE
The patience of 51-year-old Callaghan finally wore out following Monday night’s Leinster Senior League fixture against Shelbourne. Photo: David Maher/SPORTSFILE

John Fallon

Things went from bad to worse last night for beleaguered First Division club Athlone Town when frustration got the better of manager Aaron Callaghan, who quit after nine games.

Although there was an air of inevitability about the Dubliner's departure after just five months, given the team are once again marooned at the foot of the table, his parting comments suggest broader problems at a club with crisis associated to its name all too frequently over the past two years.

The patience of 51-year-old Callaghan finally wore out following Monday night's Leinster Senior League fixture against Shelbourne.

Serving a two-match touchline ban, he branded as the "last straw" the absence of adequate warm-up apparel and a physiotherapist for the game.

An Athlone Town player subsequently used his Twitter account to thank the Shelbourne physio for providing him with medical treatment during the match.

"Changing a football club's culture is one of the most difficult challenges a manager incurs, that's because the club structure comprises of an interlocking set of goals, roles, processes, values, communications, practices, attitudes and behaviours," said Callaghan after his second spell in the charge of the Midlanders came to an end.

"To raise the bar in any industry you need to set professional standards and evolve with the competition.

"Somehow this message never landed. The players and staff have my utmost respect and I wish them every success."

Survival over success will be the short-term priority for the longest-running club in the League of Ireland.

Athlone confirmed that Callaghan's assistant Terry Butler will take control for now and he could yet end up in charge for the rest of the season as attracting a new manager will prove a challenge.

Four different managers were at the helm during last year's turbulent campaign which saw them finish bottom and hurtled them into the news over a match-fixing probe.

Having been taken under Portuguese ownership for the 2017 season, Athlone found themselves the subject of an FAI investigation exactly a year ago on foot of information received by UEFA relating to irregular betting patterns.

In September, the FAI imposed 12-month bans on Athlone players Igors Labuts and Dragos Sfrijan for bringing football into disrepute, manipulating matches and betting offences.

Both players vigorously deny the charges and are undertaking appeals which may end up at the Court of Arbitration For Sport.

A five-year plan by the new owners was aborted after just 12 months, with coaching officer Michael O'Connor highlighting their problems.

"Since the investigation by the FAI, sponsorship and investment in the club completely dried up," he said in November.

During that pre-season, Roddy Collins switched from head coach to general manager but departed just one game into the season.

A month into the campaign, floodlight failure for the third successive season disrupted their game against UCD.

They continued to attract ridicule when an 18-year-old midfielder was forced to play in goal against UCD and it's understood the players travelled to a recent game at Wexford in cars rather than a coach.

When contacted last night, the club declined to address the specific issues which prompted Callaghan to walk away.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport