Athlone Town’s last game in the Premier Division took place on Sunday, April 28, 1996, in the Brandywell.
That’s almost 18 years ago. A lot of water has flowed under Athlone bridge since then, as they say.
Let’s put it this way, neither Bertie Ahern nor Tony Blair were in power. Instead, John Bruton and John Major were the leaders of their respective countries and Brian Kerr had just won the Premier Division as manager of St Patrick’s Athletic.
Lining out for Athlone that day away to Derry City were Shane Curran, Alan Kinsella, Adrian Carberry, David Collins, Davy Dowling, Barry Murphy, Ray McLoughlin, Mickey Collins, Donal Golden, Tommy Gaynor and Warren Parkes. Subs used were Conor Frawley and John Morris Burke.
A 79th minute Warren Parkes overhead kick earned Athlone a 1-1 draw and a late reprieve from relegation.
Less than two weeks after that final league game, Athlone were consigned to the First Division in a dramatic penalty shoot-out at the conclusion of a two-leg promotion/relegation play off against Home Farm/Everton.
Among the visitors line up on that fateful day was one Roddy Collins.
Cue what could never have been anticipated; 18 long seasons in the wilderness. Eighteen campaigns in Irish football’s equivalent of limbo.
Now on March 8, 2014, Athlone Town, under the managership of Mick Cooke are back in the big time.
They travel to Sligo Rovers tonight (ko 7.45pm) for their first game back in the Premier Division