Andrew Dempsey reports from Stradbrook Park
Cabinteely went top of the First Division table with a pulsating 3-2 win over Athlone Town thanks to a dramatic late winner from striker Rob Manley.
Cabo went behind just before the break but rallied in the second half to secure all three points against a crestfallen Athlone, who were full value for at least a point at Stradbrook.
Cabinteely came into Friday night’s encounter off the back of two clean sheet wins over Cobh ramblers and Galway United, with Rob Manley scoring the winner in both.
Manley has been on fire in the First Division so far this season with his seven goals – now nine – propelling Cabo up to third in the table after many predicted a year of struggle for Pat Devlin’s side.
Athlone, on the other hand, arrived at Stradbrook looking to bring an end to a three-game losing streak that has somewhat dampened the excitement levels surrounding Terry Butler’s new look side.
Last week, the Black and Blue of the Midlands were certainly left feeling that way after being pegged back and bested by Drogheda United as they saw their two-goal lead disappear to eventually lose 5-3 at home to Tim Clancy’s side.
Friday’s game began at a quick tempo with both sides going close from set piece situations. Keith Dalton’s ball in was met by Conor Keeley before he forced a smart save from Garmondeh Ta-Uway.
Athlone went close themselves soon after through Dean Casey’s corner but Kaleem Simon saw his shot fly over the Cabinteely bar.
Simon proved to be telling moments later as he blocked two glorious Cabo opportunities off the line from Conor Keeley. Dalton’s ball in caused chaos but Athlone just about cleared through the former Cabinteely forward.
After the initial rush, the game descended into a real physical showdown with neither midfield willing, or perhaps able, to get their foot on the ball and dominate proceedings.
First Division top scorer Rob Manley went close twice around the half hour mark, but he could not make his mark on proceedings as Ta-Uway in the Athlone goal looked far from assured under pressure.
However, Cabinteely were punished for their prolificacy’ in front of goal before the break as Athlone took the lead through Shane Dunne.
Dunne curled an effort into the top corner that left McGuinness with no chance as Pat Devlin was left soured by his side’s poor defensive efforts on the edge of the box.
The second half began in a very mundane spell before Cabinteely burst the game into life with two quickfire goals from Rob Manley and Keith Dalton.
Jack Watson went on a mazy run before seeing his shot blocked by an Athlone defender. However, the ball bounced upwards as Manley pounced with a header.
Athlone’s lead was completely wiped out minutes later as former Bohemians winger Dalton smacked home from the edge of the box to beat the Athlone keeper all ends up and fire Cabo into a 2-1 lead.
For all their good work, Cabinteely were pegged back just a few minutes later as Kealan Dillon made the game all square with just 20 minutes to go.
Dillon, the former Longford Town midfielder got on the end of a long throw in before slicing his effort in off the post as McGuinness was left cursing his luck in the Cabinteely goal.
Cabinteely led a charmed life after the Athlone equaliser but there was some rough justice for Athlone when Manley scored his ninth of the season after a Dalton cross into the box.
Keeley’s header was knocked back into the six-yard box where Manley was on hand to secure all three points for Cabo.
Jack Watson then came up with a telling block on the line with seconds to go as Pat Devlin’s side survived late on.
It was a tough result to take for Terry Butler’s side who were full value for a point but it was Cabo who prevailed and went top of the league for at least 24 hours.
Cabinteely: Stephen McGuinness; Daniel Blackbyrne, Jack Tuite (Zak O’Neill 84), Conor Keeley, Jack Hudson (Luke Clucas 59), Jonny Carlin; Jack Watson, Vilius Labutis, Keith Dalton; Rob Manley, Kieran Marty Waters (Eoin Massey 90+4).
Subs not used: Peter Quinlan, Zak O’Neill, Sean Fitzpatrick, Nika Kalandarishvili, Ollie Hamzat.
Booked: Daniel Blackbyrne (55), Jack Tuite (80).
Athlone Town: Garmondeh Ta-Uway; Evan White, Dean Casey, Lloyd Buckley, Aaron Brilly (Dean George 87); Shane Dunne (Shane Stokes 87), Kealan Dillon, Rhys Gorman; Kaleem Simon, Evan Pierce, Dean Williams.
Subs not used: Aaron Shanahan, John Morgan, George Mukete, Kyle Hogan, Christian Lotefa.
Booked: Shane Dunne (73)
Referee: Alan Patchell.
Attendance: 250 (estimate).
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Rob Manley (Cabinteely).