Thursday 23 November 2017

'It was really surreal' - Cobh manager Henderson on facing Athlone in first game following betting scandal

5 May 2017; A general view before the SSE Airtricity League First Division game between Athlone Town and Cobh Ramblers at Athlone Town Stadium in Westmeath. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
5 May 2017; A general view before the SSE Airtricity League First Division game between Athlone Town and Cobh Ramblers at Athlone Town Stadium in Westmeath. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Cobh Ramblers manager Stephen Henderson described the surroundings to his side's 2-1 loss to Athlone Town last Friday as 'surreal', following an investigation into irregular betting patterns concerning at least three different games involving the Midlands club last month.

The Football Association of Ireland launched an investigation into the First Division side last Wednesday, after it received a detailed report from Uefa highlighting irregular betting patterns around the club's SSE Airtricity League First Division game with Longford Town on Saturday, April 29.

The FAI then widened that investigation on Friday to include The Town's league match with UCD on April 8, and another meeting with Longford - an EA Sports Cup encounter - on April 4,  with news of the FAI's extended investigation released by the association less than an hour before Athlone were due to take on Cobh at Athlone Town Stadium.

Speaking to the Independent.ie's LOI Weekly podcast, Henderson said that he was expecting to face a very different Athlone team to the side that was defeated 3-1 by Longford Town the week before, however, Athlone interim manager Ricardo Cravo made just three changes to the side that lost to Longford, with Ethan Keogh, Ryan Gaffey and Christophe Rodrigues Silva replacing Dragos Ionel Sfrijan, Walter Alexis Invernizzi and Jose Alexandre Coelho Viegas respectively.

"There was a lot of camera crews in Athlone on Friday night and unfortunately it wasn't to promote the First Division," Henderson told LOI Weekly hosts Johnny Ward and Daniel McDonnell.

"I'd be lying to you if I didn't tell you that it was a little bit surreal. I didn't have a clue as to what sort of team they were going to be putting out, I didn't know what the situation was.

"When we were in having the pre-match meal I got a phone call and I was told there's a lot of media up there.

"The age profile of our team is quite young and I didn't want to bring them up in to that in case they were asked questions that they weren't comfortable answering, because it's a very sensitive situation that's going on there at the moment."

That situation was sensitised even further this week when members of the Athlone Town squad had agreed to hand over phone records and bank account details to the FAI in an attempt to prove their innocence in the investigation.

The FAI conducted interviews with the club's players and officials on Monday and Tuesday, with the interviews said to have focused on the league encounter with Longford Town.

Meanwhile, former Athlone manager Roddy Collins is expected to be confirmed as the club's new manager later this week after the club parted ways with former boss Ricardo Monsanto last month.

"We've got Roddy Collins waiting in the wings, that's the plan from what I can understand," said McDonnell, who is also the Irish Independent's lead football correspondent.

"It's imminent and we'll just have to see how this whole thing plays itself out. He's not going to be a low profile appointment and I think that will obviously cast doubt on all the overseas players anyway.

"Roddy is someone who tends to go to a club and bring in his own men and you'd expect that will be the case in Athlone."

If Collins is appointed Athlone's new manager it will be his seventh job in the last eight years, with the Dubliner having last managed Waterford United before parting ways with the club at the end of last season.

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