Andrew Dempsey reports from Stradbrook Road
Cabinteely comfortably sealed their place in the First Division playoffs for the first time in their brief League of Ireland history with a routine 3-1 home win over Athlone Town.
A brace from Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters set the Green and Whites on their way, with Rob Manley adding to his leading goalscoring tally in the first half.
Former Cabinteely striker Nika Kalandarishvili scored a second half consolation for the Midlanders – as Cabo held firm during an unconvincing second half display.
With a spot in the First Division playoffs on the line for Cabinteely, Pat Devlin shuffled his pack from the recent draw away to Cobh Ramblers – with both Keith Dalton and Vilius Labutis coming in for Alex Aspil and Daniel Blackbyrne.
Terry Butler made two swaps himself. The suspended John Morgan was replaced by Rhys Gorman while Adam Lennon was replaced by the experienced Darren Meenan for the visitors.
With plenty at stake for Cabo, they started slow, but they did create the first real opening of the game. Conor Keeley saw his free header saved by Athlone ‘keeper Aaron Myles after a whipped ball into the box from Keith Dalton.
The Green and Whites continued to press, with Paul Fox, Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters and Rob Manley all going close within the matter of seconds, with a committed Athlone body getting in the way of the efforts on goal.
Athlone were unable to break through the Cabinteely rear-guard, and they soon found themselves behind thanks to a Mary Waters header at the back post.
Conor Keeley drilled a header down into the ground from a Keith Dalton cross – where the former Shamrock Rovers player was on hand to turn home under no real pressure.
Clinging on under intense pressure, Athlone were dealt a fatal blow just before the half hour mark when Waters popped up to score his second of the night.
Kevin Knight’s cross from the left was picked up by Waters who scored with a curling effort into the far corner.
Things went from bad to worse moments after when Manley scored his 17thleague goal of the season with a low drive into the bottom corner after the ball fell perfectly to the ex-UCD forward.
Incredibly, Cabo almost made it four before the break – with the midfield duo of Vilius Labutis and Zak O’Neill running the show for the hosts.
An evidently morale-sapped Athlone were unable to do anything to alter the course of the game with Cabo going into the break with a comfortable three goal lead.
Despite looking in no real danger, Cabinteely were reminded that they were still in a game seconds into the second period when former Cabo forward Kalandarishvili fired home at the near post.
Stephen McGuinness ought to have saved the effort, but the ball squirmed its way home to give the visitors an early lifeline in the closing 45.
Despite early fears for the home defence, Cabinteely were soon able to see past a brief storm before they once again took control of proceedings after the break.
With a playoff spot all but secured a lightning quick ten minute first half display, Cabinteely strolled their way to victory in the second half under no real pressure – with Marty Waters being denied his hat-trick by a superb Myles save after the hour mark.
Manley looked to then seal the deal late on, but his deflected effort crashed off the post – with Athlone defender Paddy Kelly seeing a glancing header just go wide from a corner seconds later.
However, there was to be no real chances or even goals to come, as Cabinteely slammed the door shut on Bray Wanderers playoff aspirations with a controlled, yet slightly unconvincing second half performance at Stradbrook.
Cabinteely: Stephen McGuinness; Conor Keeley, Kevin Knight, Eoin Massey, Jack Tuite; Keith Dalton (Cian Lynch 88), Paul Fox, Vilius Labutis, Zak O'Neill, Kieran 'Marty' Waters (Daniel Blackbyrne 76); Rob Manley.
Subs not used: Jonny Carlin, Luke Clucas, Jack Hudson, Peter Quinlan, Yuta Sasaki.
Athlone Town: Aaron Myles; Aaron Brilly (Adam Lennon 67), Ciaran Grogan, Patrick Kelly; Kealan Dillon, Shane Dunne, Rhys Gorman, Jamie Hamilton, Darren Meenan; Nika Kalandarishvili, Evan Pierce (Jean Yves Poame 71).
Subs not used: Ollie Hamzat, Gavin Kearney, Dean O'Shea, Riahan Simon, Gargar Ta-Uway.
Booked: Shane Dunne (59)
Referee: Jason Mannix.
Attendance: 400 (estimate).
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters (Cabinteely).