By Gerard Mulreaney (@gerardmulreaney)
On Saturday, First Division side Athlone Town officially opened their newly laid Astroturf pitch in front of a large crowd at the Athlone Town Stadium.
In attendance was FAI Chief Executive John Delaney, FAI Director of competitions Fran Gavin, Independent TD Denis Naughten, Athlone Mayor Frankie Keena, Senator Gabrielle McFadden and Athlone Town Chairman John Hayden. Also in attendance was Republic of Ireland Under 16 manager Paul Osam, Athlone Town Senior team manager Terry Butler along with many members of the first-team squad ahead of their opening SSE Airtricity League First Division clash with Wexford FC on Friday night.
First John Delaney presented the clubs Under 14 and Under 16 girls team their medals after both sides won unique double-doubles, having claimed league and cups in the Midland Schoolboy/Girls league without even losing a game. A wonderful achievement by any team, never mind two teams at the same club.
The dignitaries then headed to the pitch for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony. Speeches were made by Mayor Frankie Keena, Donal Traynor of Community Finance Ireland, who said that the development so far is only the start for the Athlone Town Stadium. He said development would continue for the benefit of the community at large over the coming years. Also making speeches were Denis Naughton TD, John Hayden Chairman of Athlone Town AFC and John Delaney CEO of the Football Association of Ireland.
FAI Chief Executive John Delaney said, “Very proud to be here today. It’s great to have the opportunity to play for your club and your community in this fantastic facility.”
Athlone Town AFC Chairman John Hayden said, “It’s a truely historic day for everyone involved with the club. This is just the start of the development down here. We now have 10 teams now, 12 in the future. It’s a community facility and we want to see it utilised by everyone in the community. It’s great to see the facility finally officially opened in time for the opening game in the SSE Airtricity League First Division as we host Wexford this coming Friday night.”
Following the speeches both John Delaney and John Hayden proceeded to cut the ribbon to great celebration among the attendees.https://theleagueofireland.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/img_4403.mov
After the official opening Athlone Town’s U17’s took on Cabinteely in a pre-season friendly. Cabinteely took an early lead, against the run of play, before Athlone hit back with five goals, before a brilliant free-kick right on full time by Cabinteely. The highly entertaining game finished 5-2 in favour of the hosts.
Speaking to Athlone Town’s U17 manager Dermot Lennon after the game he said, “It was a great work out for us. We’re missing quite a few, we’ve give out injured which is a little bit worrying at this stage of the season. A little bit mix and match, one or two playing out of position, but we’re fine. We scored five goals. We’re happy enough. We only played one game previous to this, just four weeks of training. We’re happy, the kids have come in are very good. We’ve seven or eight from last year, then the rest of the squad is new. It’s a building process, it won’t be done today or to, it’s a long-term plan.”
Dermot was the manager of the clubs Under 15’s in 2017, during the inaugural year of the competition, and they went on unexpectedly to claim the league title. So, have many of that team progressed into his Under 17’s? He said, “There’d be nine or ten, maybe even eleven of that team now in the squad. Seven of them came straight up last year, which is a big step. They did quite well last year, finished level on points with Dundalk where another point, or another couple of goals would’ve put us in the playoffs. We were very pleased with that.”