Ciarán Kilduff dares to dream as thoughts turn towards FAI Cup Final success in Tallaght Stadium

Athlone Town manager Ciaran Kilduff.  Photo by Tyler Miller/Sportsfile

Athlone Town manager Ciaran Kilduff. Photo by Tyler Miller/Sportsfile

Notable attributes of his own playing career, commitment, determination and focus are core features of the Athlone Town women’s senior team which have been guided to the Sports Direct FAI Cup Final by manager, Ciarán Kilduff.

Stepping into the role vacated by Tommy Hewitt in late June, Kilduff has had an immediate managerial impact on his playing squad, one loss in 12 competitive fixtures giving much cause for optimism prior to the final in Tallaght Stadium on Sunday.

The final is a repeat of the 2022 showpiece occasion when Shelbourne were the victors, Athlone Town hoping for a reverse of that scoreline when the shrill of the referee’s whistle concludes proceedings in the capital.

Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser, Kilduff is confident that his team will put in a performance worthy of the occasion, as he aspires to return prized silverware to Athlone.

“Sunday is certain to be a great footballing occasion. Our appearance in this weekend’s final is a boost for the club and the players deserve to have a positive end to their competitive season. They have performed admirably as a unit since I started in my capacity as manager and I can only give due credit to their attitude and application to date,” Kilduff said.

Kilduff is swift to praise his playing charges, but credit is due to the management who have ensured the restoration of confidence levels following the summer recess. KIlduff stated that he had been offered previous roles in League of Ireland management, but when the Athlone Town role became available, it was the vacancy that most appealed.

“Having previously played in the League of Ireland with Dundalk and Shelbourne, I continued to retain an integral interest on playing developments, so when the vacancy at Athlone Town arose, I was of the immediate view that it was the perfect fit. Having achieved a second place finish in the women’s national league in 2022 and an FAI Cup final appearance, I realised there was further scope for progress. Our end of season form gives cause for much optimism prior to Sunday’s final fixture and as we look towards advancing the team in the 2024 season,” KIlduff added.

Having altered the team’s shape, enhancing their compactness with the signings of two custodians, Katie Keane and Katherine Hess and defender Jesi Rossman, Kilduff lauds the attitude of his players, all of whom have adapted to a new team shape which has proved positive from a results perspective.

“Together with my coaching staff we have changed the shape of the team and thankfully, bar our narrow league loss to Shelbourne, results have been positive. The players are well drilled, disciplined and take immense pride in achieving clean sheets. From an offensive perspective, the scoring threat of Dana (Scheriff ), Maddie (Gibson ) and Chloe (Singleton ) to opposing defences will always allow us an opportunity to win games,” KIlduff remarked.

Having yet to concede a goal en route to the final, Kilduff believes the cohesive spirit of the team may prove pivotal on Sunday as the game unfolds in Tallaght Stadium.

“We train three times per week and the players always arrive and participate to the maximum. They are all willing to listen and learn, they want to become better players and that can only enhance the prospects for this team. Athlone Town want to be amongst the best teams in the league and that is our aim going forward, to sustain a level of consistency that will enable us to do so,” Kilduff continued.

The prospect of raising aloft prized silverware is one which fills Kilduff with pride. In the role just over four months, he has developed a managerial bond with his players, all of whom will be aiming to create history on Sunday.

“Returning back to Athlone with the cup is the dream scenario and as a club we really want to ensure such a realisation happens. We know there will be a strong support for the team in Tallaght on Sunday, we aim to do them proud and hopefully, the players are duly rewarded for their season’s efforts with an historic FAI Cup final victory,” KIlduff concluded.


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