The 2021 SSE Airtricity league campaign has now been completed but already many of the clubs are preparing for the 2022 season - players have been snapped up and released as managers look to build their squads after reflecting on the season just past.
Athlone Town’s new manager, Martin Russell, has been quiet to date on the composition of his squad with several of the 2021 faces seemingly set to depart. The Professional Footballers Association of Ireland has published the names of their members that have requested to appear on the transfer list.
Such a request does not automatically imply that the players have left the last club with whom they were connected. It simply means that they are available but could still end up with their most recent club.
For Athlone, the list of 86 contains 15 players who have put the Town down as their club. Some like goalkeepers Tommy Holland and Paddy Martyn along with Ray O’Sullivan were just bit players during the season while it is noted that both Evan White and Jamie Hollywood had seemingly left before the campaign concluded.
Russell though would be anxious to hold onto a number of the others. Killian Cantwell, Aidan Friel and Dylan Hand would continue to add to the strength of the defence, while others such as Glen McAuley, Dan McKenna and Adam Wixted did enough in 2021 to warrant being re-signed.
Tunmise Sobowale, who spent the latter part of the season on loan from Waterford United, is also indicated as being available. One player who has definitely departed is James Doona who is heading South to link up with Cork City.
Near neighbours Longford also face a mass exodus following relegation with 14 players on the transfer list. In contrast, Premier Division champs Shamrock Rovers have no personnel on the list.
The promotion/relegation play-offs threw up a surprise as UCD gained promotion when beating Waterford in the final. It means that no Munster club is now in the top flight while half of the clubs in the Premier Division are from Dublin.
The First Division now has a totally provincial look to it as the Blues joined Longford in being relegated. Shelbourne made a quick return to the top flight as UCD successfully made it past the minefield that is the play-offs.
The lower division is still set to be ultra-competitive in 2022 as Waterford have indicated that, in spite of going down, they will keep their full time status alongside Galway United and Cork City. There will be one club less though as Bray Wanderers and Cabinteely have amalgamated under the Bray name with the Carlisle Grounds as their home ground.
Early indications from the FAI are that the division will be run with just nine teams although that is subject to change. Heading into the New Year, no applications from new clubs are currently being sought. A similar situation arises in the women’s League where every week one team are idle so there is a precedent.