No sooner had the 2020 season ended for Athlone Town but manager Adrian Carberry was already preparing for a new campaign.
It had been a long season for the Town and eventually ended with a heavy defeat in the semi-final of the FAI Cup. While it was not the desired conclusion, as Dundalk advanced to the decider in record breaking fashion, it placed the Midlands club back in the limelight on the national stage.
It gave all concerned a taste for the big time again and Carberry will be hoping to make more dreams come through. In the aftermath of the Dundalk defeat, the Town boss spoke of his plans and the ambition of at least making the play offs in the First Division.
Carberry has been quick off the mark as he tries to assemble a squad that would put Athlone in a good position to challenge for honours. A number of new arrivals, coupled with the retention of some of last season’s squad, shows he means business.
Having a season under his belt since taking over will have proved an education. The good form shown in the second half of the season with a run to the last four in the cup shows the progress that had been made.
The First Division will be ultra-competitive with two heavyweights of the domestic game having been relegated. Cork City and Shelbourne will be hoping to bounce back at the first attempt and with Galway, under John Caulfield, going full time the battle will be intense.
The disappointment of the cup defeat was soon put to one side although the game signalled the end of the loan period for Taner Dogan who returned to parent club Dundalk. The first announcement from the club was a positive one when it was confirmed that Michael Schlingermann would be once more playing his football with Athlone. The experienced goalkeeper had played with the Town earlier in his career and was most recently with Galway where he featured in the play-off defeat to Longford.
The first players to again put pen to paper on a new contract were Offaly duo Scott Delaney and Jack Reynolds, both of whom had impressed in their first season in the senior ranks. They were soon joined by Oisin Duffy, David Brookes and Jordan Carr.
Another new signing was midfielder Daniel McKenna who has represented Ireland at under age levels. Brandon McCann then joined from Bray with Aidan Friel coming back to the club after a most recent spell with Shelbourne. Former Drogheda player Stephen Meaney was next to join as the Town squad took shape.
Naturally, there will be some departures and there was disappointment that two exciting prospects have moved on to further their playing careers.
Last season’s player of the season Ronan Manning has opted to go full time with home town club Galway United while Adam Lennon has earned a scholarship with UCD. They will be missed but the moves in both cases are understandable.