Caught in an Athlone trap

He said there is no league in Ireland but Giovanni Trapattoni knows that isn’t true. The former Republic of Ireland boss will be pleased to hear that Athlone Town have been promoted to the Premier Division for the first time in 17 years.

Trapattoni was on the coaching staff of AC Milan when, exactly 38 years ago today, the Italian giants travelled to St. Mel’s Park for a game that almost produced one of the most remarkable upsets in European football history.

Trapattoni looked back on the game as “a beautiful experience” with “all the people near the touchline, close to the pitch.” This is how the New York Herald Tribune, European Edition, printed in Paris, described the unique confrontation:

Athlone, Ireland (UPI): Athlone Town a collection of Sunday afternoon footballers who earn £12 a week, held the mighty AC Milan to a 0-0 draw today in the second round of the UEFA Cup in Athlone. The Irishmen came close to defeating the Italian club, whose players are worth about 5 million dollars in transfer fees.

But winger John Minnock missed a 30th minute penalty. Athlone was awarded the kick when Scala brought down Daly but Minnock’s weak shot was stopped by Albertosi, who also had to pull off a series of first half saves to keep the Irish men off the score-board.

A crowd of 12,000 which is Athlone’s population crammed into St. Mel’s Park ground, to watch the match which local historians claimed, was the biggest thing to happen since the Earl of Lucan burned down the town’s bridge in the 17th century.

The Italians brought their own chef, wine and food to boost their morale. They made almost no effort to attack and only came into the game when Athlone appeared to run out of steam after 70 minutes. “We should have won”, said Athlone manager Amby Fogarty,  “but I am happy with a draw.”

AC Milan manager Nereo Rocco was tight lipped after the game. “I said I would be happy with a draw. I still am”, he snapped.

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