The Lead Story – Callaghan’s “unfinished business’ in Athlone


Aaron Callaghan is no stranger to Athlone Town having managed the football club back in 2004. His surprise announcement as the club’s manager for the 2018/2019 season last week will see the Dubliner not only back in familiar surroundings but also back in a familiar situation.

  “I’ve had mixed fortunes really since leaving Athlone in 2004. I’ve been at quite a few clubs who were bottom of the table financially. Going into Bohemians as manager in 2012, they were going to close the doors there. We got a lot done, working off a youth development model and signing into a partnership with the North Dublin Schoolboys League,” he says.

  It’s true that Callaghan achieved quite a bit at the North Dublin club including mid-table safety with a young squad. Patience is certainly not a virtue at boardrooms or on the terraces however, and despite signing a two year extension while working through a five year plan, Callaghan was relieved of his duties the following season.

  Since then, his managerial career has followed a similar path to his latter playing days with his most recent job north of the border with Carrick Rangers. He enjoyed some success, particularly in guiding Rangers to their first ever League Cup final.

  Athlone Town is a different proposition and Callaghan is under no illusions as he takes the hot seat with Roddy Collins as general manager.

  “The youth development model has to be the way at Athlone. This is a purely amateur set-up and that’s the model we have to have.

  “With Roddy as general manager, the hope is to use his talent to go out and bring in revenue.

  “Hopefully we’re able to sign back seven or eight players we had last season and get a couple of younger players who maybe aren’t getting a game with the likes of Sligo Rovers or some of the Dublin clubs. It’s all about using your contacts in football and that’s what we’ll be hoping to do”.

  As for the new season, there will be a trial game in January for prospective recruits and the new boss is well aware of the local talent on offer.

  “The U-15s are coming off the back of a successful season so we know there’s a bit of talent coming through to be fair.

  “As for the club it’s about getting a bit of normality back. The controversies around match fixing are well documented at this stage so our aim is to get some stability and structures in place for the coming season”.

  The 51-year-old, who himself has vast footballing experience, is looking forward to working with fellow Dub, Roddy Collins.

  “While Roddy won’t be having a say in team selection on match day, his advice can’t be dismissed and he’ll act as a mentor which is going to be great for me.”

  Callaghan, who has made over 200 appearances cross channel for the likes of Stoke City and Crewe Alexandra and became one of the first coaches in Ireland to obtain UEFA pro status, will certainly have his work cut out as he attempts to guide The Town to a more stable footing. But with his and Collins’ combined experience and Aaron’s track record with younger players, there may yet be light at the end of a dark tunnel for Athlone Town Football Club.