Athlone Town travel to the Brandywell tonight in search of their first league points of the season. Derry City manager Roddy Collins led the Midlands club to promotion for the first time in 18 years but now Collins could be the one to seal Athlone’s unwanted entry into the record books for one of the worst starts to a season in recent history.
Athlone have been beaten by Sligo Rovers, Shamrock Rovers, UCD, Cork City, Drogeda United and Bohemians to make it six defeats out of six for The Town. Evan McMillan scored an 87th minute winner for Sligo on opening day and a spectacular own goal by James O’Brien sent Bohs on their way to a 3-1 victory at Lissywollen on Monday.
In the modern era, two other teams have lost their first six games in the Premier Division while three teams have done it in the First Division. It had happened a total of 15 times in the League of Ireland top flight but only three times in the past fifty years – UCD lost their opening six fixtures in 1981-82, Drogheda United were beaten in their first six in 1997-98 and UCD suffered seven consecutive defeats at the start of the 2003 season.
Athlone are certainly not short of goals though, scoring 6 so far which is twice as many as Sligo, last season’s third place side and FAI Cup champions. By comparison, UCD scored one goal in their first seven games in 2003 and Drogheda scored four in six in 1997-98.
UCD did not gain a win until the tenth game with Bohemians while Drogs didn’t pick up their first win until the 19th game against Louth rivals Dundalk, amassing just four points before then. Three of the last four top tier teams to lose 6 or more games ultimately lost their top flight status as UCD and Drogheda were relegated to the First Division and Sligo Rovers were not re-elected to the league after 1961-62.
UCD made a good recovery in 1981-82; the Students finished fourth last in the table and in 2003 they could not survive even with the fourth best defensive record. Going further back, in 1938-39, Bray Unknowns showed that there is still hope after six defeats by placing ninth out of 12 teams thanks to 7 wins and 4 draws in their remaining 16 games. The worst ever start was by Kilkenny City in the 1994-95 First Division when they earned a measly two points in a 27-game campaign.
City manager Paddy Gallagher was sacked after an 18 match losing streak, which ended with a 0-0 draw at home to Drogheda United in February and the other draw came from Bray Wanderers in their second last outing at the Carlisle Grounds in April. That run stood as an all-time League of Ireland record at any stage of a season until Galway United lost 22 in a row during 2011.
Defeats – Club – Season
18 – Kilkenny City – 1994-95 (FD)
15 – Jacobs – 1930-31
14 – Bray Unknowns – 1935-36
12 – Monaghan United – 1995-96 (FD)
9 – Pioneers – 1923-24
9 – Bray Unknowns – 1941-42
9 – St. James’s Gate – 1943-44
8 – Midlands Athletic 1923-24
8 – Bray Unknowns – 1925-26
8 – Bray Unknowns – 1927-28
7 – YMCA – 1921-22
7 – Sligo Rovers – 1961-62
7 – UCD – 2003
6 – Bray Unknowns – 1938-39
6 – Cork Hibernians – 1957-58
6 – UCD – 1981-82
6 – Longford Town – 1990-91 (FD)
6 – Drogheda United – 1997-98
6 – Athlone Town – 2014