Athlone hope new signing O'Brien can feature against Wexford

Story by Kevin O'Neill

Wednesday, 21st July, 2010 5:00pm

FOLLOWING their heroics against Gordon Strachan's Middlesbrough on Monday evening (drawing 1-1), Athlone Town are hopeful of having new striker Declan O'Brien registered in time to face Wexford Youths in Friday's Airtricity First Division clash at Lissywoollen (7.45pm).

Former Drogheda Utd hitman O'Brien - known in the game as 'Fabio' - surprised many League of Ireland onlookers by agreeing a player-coach role with Athlone last week.

However, O'Brien was not eligible to make his league debut against Longford Town last weekend due to a hitch in re-grading the player from a professional to amateur status.

O'Brien, who impressed during his first run-out for Athlone against Middlesbrough, last played professionally in Malta with Valetta, and Athlone Town officials have been in ongoing dialogue with the Maltese FA over the past week in a bid to speed-up O'Brien's situation.

A club spokesperson told the 'Westmeath Independent' on Tuesday that getting O'Brien registered in time to face Wexford is "a priority" in a very busy week for Athlone, who were also due to play Port Vale last night (Tuesday), before the visit of Villareal on Saturday (7pm).

O'Brien bagged an impressive 90 goals in 184 appearances for Drogheda Utd, where he is still held in the highest esteem, and also had a successful loan spell at St Pat's before moving to Malta, where he played under the management of former Barcelona and Man Utd winger Jordi Cruyff.

O'Brien, who has plenty of European experience with both Drogheda and St Pat's, also holds the Irish record for consecutive goals in European ties (five), a record that no other Irish player boasts, including strikers such as Niall Quinn, John Aldridge and Robbie Keane.

Athlone stunned many people by signing O'Brien, who had been linked with a return to St Pat's, as well as moves to Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers.

However, the lively striker - who has enrolled in a course at Athlone IT - has already publicly stated his desire to get involved in coaching, and his new role with Athlone is seen as the first step for him in this capacity.

O'Brien could be joined by some other new additions for the Wexford game, with manager Brendan Place currently running the rule over trialists Wayne Colbert and Dave Ryan (released by Limerick), midfielder Denis Moran (Bohemians) and goalkeeper Jason Lownes (Glebe North).

All four players impressed against Middlesbrough and at time of print were expected to also feature against Port Vale.

Athlone will be without the suspended Austin Skelly and Mark Nolan for Friday's game, while Gordon Watson, Robbie Farrell and Gareth Kenna are injured.

Recent signings Paddy Collins and Shane Fitzgerald could make their debuts, while loanees Jason Hughes and Ryan McEvoy - who played against Longford - are likely to feature in their first competitive outings at Lissywoollen.

Following last Saturday's disappointing local derby defeat to Longford, Athlone are now third from bottom of the First Division and is serious need of a victory against sixth-placed Wexford.

Meanwhile, Athlone have parted company with striker Shane Dolan, who only signed for the club in pre-season and managed just a handful of appearances.

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