Athlone Town progress during inaugural Womens National League campaign

Athlone Town FC have a long and proud history stretching back over 100 years but Saturday, August 15 2020, will be a day jotted down in the club history books.

It was the day the club fielded their very first senior women’s team in the FAI Women’s National league. The task could not have been tougher with the visit of Wexford Youths who had been leading lights in the game for a number of years. The outcome may not have been the desired one but there was no disgrace in a one nil defeat.

It took some time for the Town ladies to get established but a first ever win was finally celebrated in their fifth outing. That victory came in early September when the hosts edged out Treaty in a five-goal thriller. Katelyn Keogh, Paula Doran and Kellie Brennan with the first Athlone goals to be scored in the league.

Generally, it proved to be a satisfactory season for all concerned under the management of former Athlone player Tommy Hewitt. Darren Whelan acted as assistant manager with Anto Whelan and Edel Menton also involved as coaches. Kevin Rohan acted as goalkeeping coach.

One of the few disappointments was an early exit from the cup in cruel fashion. The visit of Bohemian FC looked to have afforded Hewitt’s charges the opportunity to progress but the lottery of a penalty shootout put paid to any cup dreams.

The team was a nice mix of local players that had come through the underage ranks together with the best from surrounding counties. A reputation for being a young and competitive team was quickly earned. This showed as many of the top teams struggled against the new entity with previously earned reputations counting for nothing.

It was a learning curve for both players and management but several milestones were achieved over the course of the campaign. Wins were recorded against Limerick based Treaty United both home and away and a creditable draw away against DLR Waves from Dublin.

The aim for the second phase of the season was to remain undefeated and this was achieved. The last game saw Bohemian FC visit and Athlone ended on a high note with a well deserved two nil win. It was also the first time a Women’s National League game in the town had been streamed live.

Preparations are now underway for a new season with the retained coaching staff hoping to use the achievements of the first season as a foundation for the 2021 campaign. The aim would be to maintain standards and keep improving. The philosophy of giving young local players and those in the surrounding areas a platform to fulfil their potential will remain.

This is possible when competing alongside some of the top players in the country, many of whom have represented their country at International level. It appears likely that in the 2021 season, Athlone will again field in the National under 17 league and also the new under 19 competition.

 

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