The post-Christmas sales may have been severely curtailed but Adrian Carberry still pulled off a major coup with his final signing of 2020 for Athlone.
The Town manager had already started assembling a strong looking squad but the signing of Kurtis Byrne definitely stood out. The 30 year old striker had started his professional career in Scotland with Hibernian before coming home to join Dundalk in 2013. Spells with Bohemians and St Patricks Athletic followed. Linfield and The New Saints in Wales were next to feature on the players CV and a return to Ireland saw Byrne play with Waterford last season where he made thirteen appearances in the truncated season.
It is the first time Byrne has dropped out of the top flight in Ireland where he has picked up all major honours in a glittering career. Therefore it is a huge achievement for Carberry to persuade the much travelled striker come to the Midlands. There was bound to have been a lot of competition for his signature and it put down a major marker as to Athlone’s ambitions. Technically excellent, the former Irish underage international player will be a huge asset and his big time experience will be crucial.
The new year had started on a positive note for Athlone with Carberry having a lot of work done already in preparation for the 2021 campaign. The ambition of making the play offs in the First Division now certainly looks possible with a tilt at the title not ruled out.
The signing spree ramped up as December reached its midway point. Shane Barnes was next to put pen to paper as he joined from Cabinteely while former Bray player Derek Daly followed to become the latest acquisition.
Carberry then turned to the 2020 squad for his next signing with Tumelo Tlou opting to stay. Cabinteely were again raided for the next signing as Jonathan Carlin joined having appeared in all but two of the Dublin team’s games in defence last season. Mark Birrane became player number fifteen in the squad having impressed in 2020.
The next signing came from Midlands rivals Longford as Dylan Hand crossed the county border. Raiding a Premier Division club for a player was always going to make people sit up especially when James Doona joined from St Patricks Athletic having also seen service with Shamrock Rovers. The Christmas shopping was all but completed when Adam Wixted signed from Drogheda and Jack Watson joined from Bray. The former was capped at under age level and, although only in his mid-20s, has already accumulated a wealth of experience in the league.
Likewise, Watson has lots of experience and he too should be a major influence in midfield. Post-Christmas goodies arrived when Killian Cantwell signed from Bray. The defender was on last year’s First Division team of the year having previously served Galway, Limerick and Finn Harps.
The year came then to a close with arguably the biggest signing made by Carberry in the shape of Byrne.