2023 LOIW Season Preview: Athlone Town

Manager:  Tommy Hewitt

Stadium:  Athlone Town Stadium

Players In:  Eve Conheady (Peamount Utd), Shauna Brennan (Galway WFC), Chloe Singleton (Galway WFC), Nyla Peterkin (Vilaverdense), Nausica Costantini (Italy), Julia Weithofer (Sassari Torres)

Players Out:  Jessica Hennessy (Shamrock Rvrs), Melissa O’Kane (Shamrock Rvrs), Emily Corbet (Wexford Yths)

extratime.com Key Player:  Maddison Gibson

Gibson arrived in Athlone last Summer and made her debut in the 7-0 Cup win over Whitehall Rangers in June. The following week she scored her first goal, in a 2-1 league win over Sligo.

She went on to score seven times for Athlone, four times in the league and three times in the FAIW Cup, with all three of those goals coming in the semi-final win over Wexford.

But Gibson’s stats only tell part of the story. Her influence on the pitch is immense. She leads by example, putting in the hard yards on and off the ball, never letting possession go cheaply and demanding a similar attitude from those around her.

She matches a strong physical presence with buckets of skill and the attitude of a winner and has the potential not just to be Athlone’s most inportant player but to be one of the league’s most influential players in 2023.

extratime.com One to Watch:  Scarlett Herron

Herron joined Athlone Town from Peamount United in July of last year and, having made just one appearance for the Peas, she played in all 17 of Athlone’s game from her debut against Cork City until the end of the season.

Partnering Muireann Devaney in central midfield, Herron immediately looked the part in a side that finished runners up in both the league and the cup. She also hit the net four times for the Midlands side and while Emily Corbet grabbed most of the headlines for Athlone, Herron was diligently building her reputation outside the spotlight. Expect her to continue to do that in 2023.

Last Season:  League (2nd)

Athlone were arguably the surprise package of 2022, coming from nowhere to challenge for the league title right up until the final weekend when they lost out to Shelbourne.

No one expected such a strong showing from Tommy Hewitt’s side, a fact underlined by him winning the Manager of the Year award despite Noel King having guided Shelbourne to an impressive league and cup double.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Athlone’s season was their consistency. After a tricky start in which they won just one of their opening five matches, Hewitt’s side went on to lose just two of their remaining 22 games.

Athlone were a difficult team to break. The energy and aggression of Laurie Ryan, Jessica Hennessy and Muireann Devany was key in providing a solid foundation from which their more attacking players could push forwards.

Week after week they wore opponents down before finishing them off with beautifully executed counterattacks. They may have lacked the explosiveness that Peamount, Shelbourne and Wexford all displayed at various stages, but they also avoided any confidence sapping dips in form.

To sum up, Athlone had a magnificent season, full of excellent individual performances but characterised chiefly by a rock solid team ethic.

FAI Cup:  Beaten Finalists

Showing the same consistency that characterised their league campaign Athlone reached the final of the FAI Women’s Cup without conceding a goal. They started out with a comprehensive 7-0 win over Whitehall Rangers and followed that up with a clinical 2-0 win over a Cork City side that played startlingly well on the day.

Their semi-final win over Wexford was one of Athlone’s best performances of the season with a Maddison Gibson hat-trick rounding off an emphatic win. All of which led to a Cup Final defeat to Shelbourne that will probably rank among their most disappointing games of 2022.

Unforced errors put them behind early on and despite rallying they never overcame that early loss of advantage.


What to expect in 2023:

As with any rapid ascent there is always the suspicion that an equally rapid descent may follow. And the loss of two star players certainly doesn’t help Athlone’s cause, but their group personality should be sufficiently robust to avoid any kind of collapse.

They have lost Jessica Hennessy - aguably the best central defender in the league in 2022 - who has gone to join newly returned Shamrock Rovers. On top of that top-scorer Emily Corbet has moved to Wexford Youths, but the loss of utility player Melissa O’Kane will also be felt.

Incoming are two of Galway WFC’s top performers from last season with left-sided wing-back Shauna Brennan and right winger Chloe Singleton arriving at Lissywoolen. These are players of genuine quality but it is in defence that recuitment will be key.

Two defenders have arrived from Italy, Italian Nausica Costantini and American Julia Weithofer, and if they can replicate the influence of Jess Hennessy then Hewitt’s side may be looking at another season challenging for silverware.

Despite the three key defections Athlone retain the majority of their side from last season. Their midfield remains intact. There are few more competent defensive midfielders than captain Laurie Ryan and the powerful centre-mid duo of Muireann Devaney and Scarlett Herron will again run the show. All of which is supported by wide players Roisin Molloy and Gillian Keenan, both of who excelled last year.

They also have Dana Scheriff returning from a season out with injury and Corbet’s departure may finally allow Kellie Brennan the space she needs to achieve her potential. 

In summary, Athlone will again battle for honours but so will four other teams. Ultimately success or failure will depend on how effectively they replace Corbet and Hennessy. 


First Game:  Peamount United (h)  (Saturday 4th March, ko - 7pm)

Season Preview: Sligo Rovers https://t.co/f7FyDiugML pic.twitter.com/tWEfim5A0a

— Extratime.com (@ExtratimeNews) February 26, 2023