Preparations continue for the Athlone Town men’s and women’s senior teams as they look forward to the SSE Airtricity League getting underway at the end of the month.
While pre-season results have not been favourable, neither manager will be too concerned. The real competition starts for Adrian Carberry when his men’s team travel to UCD while Tommy Hewitt will have his charges equally ready for a home opener against Shelbourne.
Both teams have been active since training resumed and the men’s team now have four friendly games under their belt. Facing Premier Division opposition, the Town have been up against it and have lost all four outings.
Both Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers put two and three goals respectively past Athlone without conceding. Finn Harps were next up last Saturday at home and, although again beaten, the hosts finally opened their goal account for 2021, big name signing Kurtis Byrne cancelling out Ethan Boyle’s opener to level matters at the half time break. The Donegal outfit however added two more without reply in the second half but the hopeful signs continued. Carberry’s new look squad look a very competitive outfit with no obvious weak links.
The preparations continued at the Showgrounds on Monday when Sligo faced the Town for the second time. Reflecting the strength in depth of the 2021 squad, just two players, Adam Wixted and Daniel McKenna, survived in the starting line up from two days earlier as latest signing Kayleum Rice started in goal. It was another defeat but the Town fell just short after a late rally. Following a scoreless opening half, Rovers raced into a three goal lead. Athlone dug deep though and reduced the deficit through Jamie Hollywood with James Doona scoring the visitors second on the stroke of full time.
There is a double header at the weekend when firstly Longford Town and then Treaty United are the visitors on Saturday. There will be a lot of interest in both results with a Midlands derby always whetting the appetite.
New boys Treaty will be interesting opponents and it affords Dean George an early opportunity to return to the ground where he scored a memorable hat trick in the cup. The striker shocked Shelbourne in an unforgettable display but will now be looking to prove to new boss Tommy Barrett that his performance was not a once off. A return game in Limerick against Treaty will wrap up the pre-season friendlies with the competitive action following a week later.
Tommy Hewitt also has a season under his belt as senior manager and his women’s team have been busy since training recommenced in early February.
The team’s first friendly saw DLR Waves visit with another Dublin team Bohemians also in town before last month was out. A visit to Eamon Deacy Park last Saturday saw Athlone beaten by three goals to one by Galway United. A midweek return against United afforded Hewitt a further chance to run the rule over the strengths or otherwise of his playing squad.