The fixtures for the new SSE Airticity League season have been released and with a full complement of ten teams, there will be no idle weekend for Athlone from February to October.
The campaign gets underway on Friday, February 17, with Athlone back in action a day later. It is an interesting opening encounter as they take on Longford Town in the first Midlands derby of the season. Longford will enjoy home advantage on this occasion as they strive to get Stephen Henderson’s reign as manager off to a flying start. Former Athlone players Derek Daly, James Doona and Stephen Meaney have linked up with the ex-Cobh boss in the close season to add extra spice to the fixture.
There will be a full series of 36 games which will be completed in late October with the play-off games then taking place. Athlone's first home game is another tough encounter as they welcome relegated Finn Harps to Lissywollen. Early March sees Athlone make the long journey to the South East for a meeting with Wexford. Two home games follow for the Town before a historic first ever clash with league newcomers Kerry FC in Mounthawk Park Tralee. The first series of games will be completed when Athlone entertain Cobh Ramblers a week after Easter.
There will be a full series of matches to end the bank holiday weekends with the first in May throwing up a visit to Finn Park to take on Harps. More history will be made in round 14 when Kerry visit Athlone for the first time ever, while the first home Midlands derby against Longford then takes place on the first Friday in June.
Another full series of fixtures is pencilled in for the following Bank Holiday Monday with a second home game for the Town in four days. There is a mid-season break following the second trip to Tralee on June 9 as action resumes with a home game against Treaty United two weeks later. The first round of the FAI Cup will then take place on the week ending July 23.
Monday of the August Bank holiday weekend then stages a set of games as Athlone entertain Harps. The Town will complete their travels in mid-October with the long return journey to Donegal to again face Harps, the league campaign finally ending with the last Midlands derby of the season as Athlone sign off on 2023 with home advantage over Longford.
It may not signal the end of the Athlone campaign though. The play-offs will then decide who joins the First Division champions in the top flight. Those that finish from second to fifth will face each other in a two legged semi-final, the winners of which will then do battle in the play-off final. The promotion/relegation play off will then decide which team will play in the Premier Division in 2024. The team that finishes second bottom in the top division will take on the winners of the play off final at a neutral venue.