Excitement continues to mount at the prospect of the SSE Airtricity League 2021 season getting underway at the close of the month.
All 20 participating clubs are back in pre-season training and with Treaty United confirmed as new members, Athlone Town now know what faces them. The First Division campaign gets underway at the end of the month with 27 games to be played in total.
Twelve months ago, Adrian Carberry had already got his Town managerial career underway. It was not the perfect start though as Athlone lost at home to Cabinteely. Ronan Manning was on target for the hosts on his way to winning the player of the season award.
An away game in Cobh also ended in defeat as Ramblers collected full points with the odd goal in five. Darren Meenan grabbed both Town scores from the penalty spot. A midweek trip to Galway for an EA Sports Cup tie again proved fruitless and it was the last action for some time as the current pandemic kicked in.
A number of players that featured in that 2020 opener have since retired or moved on to pastures new. Manning has returned to Galway while Adam Lennon has gone to UCD on a scholarship.
New club Treaty have now snapped up a couple more of the players that featured against Cabinteely. United manager Tommy Barrett has previously played with Athlone and has returned to pick up both Joel Coustrain and Dean George. The former did not complete the season with the Town but the latter made national headlines for his exploits in the cup.
George came on as a second half substitute against Cabo and struggled thereafter to claim a regular starting line-up berth. His strike return was poor but it took knockout competition to bring out the best in him. The draw for the quarter finals of the FAI Cup handed Athlone a home game against Premier Division Shelbourne. The Reds were hot favourites to advance but instead George grabbed the headlines with a treble as Shels were shocked. It looked like the hat trick hero was remaining in the Midlands for another season but a move to Limerick now sees him again link up with former team mate Coustrain.
Carberry looks to have completed his 2021 squad at this stage and was pleased to welcome back one of the heroes of last season’s cup run. Taner Dogan missed out on the semi-final against parent club Dundalk through suspension but has again returned to town from the Louth outfit on loan. The midfielder will be remembered for scoring from the halfway line against Drogheda in United Park.
Dundalk have also sent Terique Mohammed out on loan. The left back played with Toronto in Canada last year. Carberry has also raided the junior ranks for a goalkeeper as Kayleum Rice joins having previously played with Kilbarrack and Stella Maris.
Preparations continue with two more friendly games against Premier Division opposition, Finn Harps visit Lissywollen on Saturday with a trip to Sligo following two days later.