In his new memoir, Roddy Collins describes the evening in 2013 when his Athlone City aspect received the First Division title in Lissywollen as “one in all my greatest ever days in soccer”.
The Dubliner, one of the crucial colourful and outspoken characters in Irish soccer, spent a season with Athlone City as a participant within the Eighties after which went on to have two spells managing the membership within the 2010s.
In his most profitable managerial function he received the league and cup double with Bohemians in 2001, and he additionally had spells accountable for a number of different golf equipment together with Carlisle United, Shamrock Rovers, Derry Metropolis and Maltese aspect Floriana.
In his recently-published e-book The Rodfatherwritten with Paul Howard, Roddy appears to be like again with fondness on his season as an Athlone City participant and his first spell managing the membership.
Athlone City and Bohemians legend Turlough O’Connor was the supervisor at St Mel’s Park when he recruited Collins from Bohs in 1983 after seeing him rating a hat-trick in a event in Inchicore.
Turlough “has all the time been a kind of surrogate father to me,” Roddy states within the e-book. “He got here into my life two years after my Da died and was the robust male function mannequin that I used to be lacking in my life.
“Outdoors my circle of relatives, I can actually say there was no man whose opinion of me mattered extra to me. It nonetheless issues to me to today.”
The Athlone workforce he joined had simply been topped league champions within the 1982-83 season, and so they have been “an excellent bunch of bokes” he says.
His teammates included gamers akin to “Stefan Fenuik, who got here to Athlone from Stoke and by no means went again… Noel Larkin, who would win seven League of Eire titles at three completely different golf equipment, and Padraig O’Connor, one in all Turlough’s brothers, who by no means drank and would go for an ice cream after a match when everybody went else for a pint.”
Roddy’s function within the aspect was “up entrance subsequent to Michael O’Connor, or Socksy, one other one in all Turlough’s brothers who was an excellent participant and will have performed in England.”
Aged in his early 20s, Roddy married his spouse, Caroline, shortly after he signed for Athlone. Consequently, “as a substitute of a honeymoon, Caroline obtained a visit to the Isle of Man for a pre-season event with Athlone City.”
The membership was drawn to play Belgian champions Customary Liege within the first spherical of the 1983-84 European Cup.
Roddy scored within the first leg, a sport performed “on a manky evening at St Mel’s Park” the place “you would hear the rain drumming off the corrugated metal of the stand”. It led to a 3-2 defeat for Athlone.
Arriving in Belgium for the second leg, the Irish guests have been “given a police escort from the airport to the resort and the identical remedy after we went to coaching.”
“We thought we have been the Beatles. You may see the fellas rising in confidence, making an attempt out issues on the coaching pitch.
“We began to really feel like we have been skilled footballers with an opportunity of knocking Customary Liege out of the European Cup. That did not final lengthy,” Roddy remembers. Customary Liege took the lead very early within the second leg, and ran out 8-2 winners.
Roddy scored eleven league targets in his single season taking part in for Athlone, after which he was offered to Drogheda with Terry Eviston being introduced in to take his place.
He explains that it was Turlough O’Connor who phoned him in 2013 to inform him that Athlone have been searching for a supervisor.
The job “appealed to me as a result of it was Turlough’s dwelling membership and I knew how a lot it meant to him. It additionally meant quite a bit to me. I spent a few of my happiest days as a footballer at Athlone City, not together with our humiliation in opposition to Customary Liege, after all.”
He says the managerial function got here with “two provisos” – one was that Michael O’Connor could be the assistant supervisor and the opposite was that half of the gamers needed to be locals.
“I admitted that I put a beneficiant interpretation on what was thought of ‘native’ to Athlone,” Roddy states.
The workforce gained momentum because the 2013 season progressed and shortly promoted to the Premier Division, the place Athlone had not featured because the mid-Nineteen Nineties, was on the horizon.
“For the final two or three dwelling video games of the season, the city was buzzing. After we beat Waterford 1-0 at dwelling, we have been champions with three video games to spare,” he wrote.
“I am going to always remember the scenes on the pitch afterwards. Individuals advised me that they thought Athlone City would by no means be a Premier League membership once more. The entire city obtained a raise. Caroline and all of the household have been with me that day.
“It was the very first thing I would received in soccer since I did the double with Bohs twelve years earlier. I can actually say it was one in all my greatest ever days in soccer, not simply because I beloved the membership, however as a result of I knew how a lot it meant to Turlough.”
After that season, he writes that he was “again in demand as a supervisor” and needed to go away Athlone.
“The membership did not have the cash to push on the next season… I needed to exit on a excessive, so I requested (chairman) John Hayden to let me go and he agreed.”
In 2017, he returned to handle Athlone City for a second spell, saying he was advised Portuguese traders have been “all for utilizing Athlone as a kind of heart of excellence” and deliberate to “develop the gamers and promote them on”.
Athlone completed backside of the league that 12 months, successful simply 4 of their 27 matches.
“I could not imagine that this was the identical membership Turlough led to the League of Eire title, the identical membership whose jersey I used to be proud to put on. When the season was over on the finish of 2017, I left.”
Roddy has not managed a membership since, although he says he was supplied a chance to teach in China and had been trying to pursue this when the Covid pandemic hit in early 2020 and the nation’s borders closed.
* ‘The Rodfather’ by Roddy Collins, with Paul Howard, is out now having been printed by Penguin Sandycove in October.