Athlone Town boss Dario Castelo: 'Ireland have fantastic players and coaches - I am very happy to be here'

Andrew Dempsey reports from Bishopsgate

He may have come into the League of Ireland as an unknown – but Dario Castelo is slowly making a name for himself at Athlone Town.

The Portuguese native assumed the role as boss in June and has helped lead his side to a comfortable position in the play-offs.

And on Saturday night he landed his most significant win in charge yet, seeing off local rivals Longford Town 3-2 at Bishopsgate.

Prior to last year Athlone failed to beat Longford Town in 19 games, a run that stretched back to August 2013. But that wretched period is no more.

“It was a very hard game against a very good team,” Castelo told after Athlone Town’s thrilling win on Saturday.

“Longford don’t occupy the position they deserve. They have good players and a good coach but I am very happy because it was an important game for us. That game was more than just football.

“We have conquered the respect of the other teams with our league position because Athlone have come from a difficult few years. Our players have worked a lot and I am very happy for them, the administration and the supporters.”

Formerly a scout at Sporting Lisbon, Castelo’s only previous involvement in a management capacity was in Cape Verde with GD Oásis Atlântico – and it was a surprise that he ended up at Athlone Town to many within League of Ireland circles.

“When I came to Ireland I received an invitation to come here,” he explained. “I worked in Cape Verde for three seasons with GD Oásis Atlântico and then I returned to Portugal.

“After just four months in Portugal I received the invitation to come to Athlone Town.

“The League of Ireland deserves better promotion because it is a very tough league and the games are very intense.

“Of course, it is not the same thing as Portugal technically but it is not easy to compete here. Ireland have fantastic players, coaches and I am very happy to be here.”

But while he is enjoying life in the League of Ireland at the moment, Castelo did confess to not knowing much about the set-up before he landed in Ireland.

“I am surprised,” he added. “I knew about the first league (Premier Division) but (not) the First Division which is a second division.

“I have to confess, I only started to understand the League of Ireland after my invitation but you just look at the games that have been played. If you look at the game on Saturday night it was a great game in the weather, intensity and emotion. It is fantastic.”

While Saturday’s win over Longford Town will likely be remembered for Frantz Pierrot’s stunning double, Castelo will be keen to make sure his side pounce on their win and seal a place in the play-off places at the end of the season.

And with no game next weekend due to the second round of the FAI Cup taking place the Portuguese boss has a simple plan to ensure his side keep their feet on the ground before their game against Wexford on August 25.

“My plan is always to work,” he said. “Work. Work. Work. I will be looking to work with my players to develop the team to create more chances in games and then I will look to develop the players.

“The teams in the league, like us, sometimes play with their heart more than their head. I am sure that will be a fantastic game.”