ATHLONE Town FC have confirmed the departure of Mick Cooke as first-team manager.
Speculation mounted this morning that Cooke and the club had parted ways following Athlone’s failure to gain a point from their opening ten matches in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division.
In a statement issued at lunchtime today, the club chairman John Hayden said: “The club would like to thank Mick for the hard work, honesty and integrity he has shown in the job since replacing Roddy Collins at the start of the season. We would like to wish him the best of luck in the future whatever road he now chooses to take.”
Mick Cooke was also quoted in the statement, saying: “Over the weekend after discussions with the chairman I feel that despite the team being so close to getting results, I just cannot find the right button to get us over the line and gain the all important results we need. It was through these discussions that John Hayden and myself felt that new men at the helm was the best plan of action. I feel that 28 points will be enough for the team to remain in the Premier Division and by stepping aside now and letting a new man take charge, they may find that button and with 23 games remaining it will give him a great chance of keeping the club in the Premier.
“I would like to thank the club chairman for the chance to manage Athlone Town and the support he has given me over the 12 games so far this season. I would also like to thank the brilliant bunch of players along with the backroom staff involved for the tremendous loyalty they have shown me from the start. Thank you to the supporters as well for continuing to back me and the team throughout the games, most notably at the end of the Dundalk defeat where they were tremendous as always. I would finally like to wish the club and the new management team when appointed the best of luck for the rest of the season.”
The statement did not refer to Cooke’s replacement with a further statement expected to be issued in this regard on Tuesday evening. However, the Westmeath Independent has learned that the former Bray Wanderers stalwart Keith Long is to be installed as manager and will take charge for Friday’s Premier Division game against Bray Wanderers (Lissywollen, 7.45pm).
Long, it’s understood, will not take charge of the side for tonight’s Leinster Senior Cup quarter-final against St Patrick’s Athletic. Instead the team will be guided by two members of the club youth coaching staff, Mick Dolan and Colin Fortune.