With the Midland Schoolboy/girl league declaring that the 2019/20 season is to be null and void there was disappointment for the local teams concerned.
AC Celtic, St Francis, Willow Park and St Josephs all are participants in the various competitions run by the MSL. Games between the local rivals are always keenly contested and the derby battles will recommence once more hopefully in mid-September.
AC Celtic and St Josephs are two of the newer clubs involved, each being in existence less than 25 years. However, during the period since their foundation in 1998, both have made huge strides on and off the field.
The Saints are a community-based club catering for boys on the west side of Athlone. Most of their players come from areas in South Roscommon such as Monksland, Bealnamulla and Clonown. The ethos of the club is to provide a fun and safe environment for all abilities to improve their skills. Lifelong friendships are made through such fine clubs as St Josephs.
Much depends on the active participation of parents through all age groups and an executive committee is elected each year. The voice of all concerned is listened to and encouragement is given in order to have a say in how the club is run. Chairman for the current season is Damien Kelly.
The coaches are all hard working with suitable qualifications in the game and also in child welfare. The vibrancy of the club is evident in the numbers that are registered each year. The age range catered for is between 6 and 16 years old. Participation in the MSL is supplemented with games in different SFAI cup competitions which further broaden the club’s horizons. Any player involved cannot complain about a lack of games over the course of the season.
Reflecting their roots on the west of the River Shannon, most of the teams are generally in action in the excellent facilities available there. Cushla Park in Monksland is often the preferred venue while Clonown also regularly host the Saints. McCarthy Park, Bealnamulla and Iona Park have also featured in the past. The club has been lucky to attract a number of leading coaches over the years with Gordon Brett one such example. Former Athlone Town manager Colin Fortune is currently involved on the coaching front as a parent putting something back into the club.
The year started on a positive note for the club with the news that former player Dara McGuinness had been selected for the Irish under 16 squad. Now with Shamrock Rovers, the transition year student at Coláiste Chiarain was picked by Paul Osam to take part in a tournament in Turkey after impressing at a training camp. A bright future lays ahead for Dara who scored his first international goal in the win over Kosovo.
On the field, the under 11 Whites kicked off 2020 with a great win away from home against Kilcormac. The under 16s were also in early action but were out of luck as they came out the wrong side of a seven goal thriller in Mountmellick. Kyle Moroney and Charlie Kelly with two were on target for the Saints. There was success in the St Aengus tournament where the under 12 Lions got the better of Hodson Bay in an all Athlone final. Shay McGuinness was the hero with both goals in a two nil win.
The under 16s bounced back from their earlier defeat to share the spoils with Portlaoise. The visitors had an impeccable record beforehand but the Saints came very close to creating a shock as Kelly’s free kick almost produced a late winner. Another Laois team were put to the sword next as Abbeyleix were thrashed by five goals to nil. The other underage teams also had a very busy schedule and just before the lockdown, the under 16s were unlucky to lose to AC Celtic as a missed penalty proved costly.