Ciaran Kilduff: ‘We’ll start the season firing on all fronts and we'll see how it goes - but you can't guarantee anything’
Athlone Town boss Ciaran Kilduff reckons his side play too few league games - but he is hoping to close the gap on Peamount United at the top of the table.
Kilduff’s FAI Cup holders begin their 2024 campaign next month with a President’s Cup showdown against Peamount.
But the Kildare man will be without his top scorer from last season with Dana Scheriff leaving the Blue and Black.
Scheriff was the top scorer in the Women’s Premier Division last season with 13 goals.
Although, the Town have been able to retain the bulk of their squad from 2023 at least.
“I suppose the most notable departure is Dana Scherriff,” KIlduff told extratime.com.
“She was the top scorer in the country but moved over to Switzerland and we wish her well. It is a great move for her. But I think we've recruited well.
“Keeping the majority of the team together that we had was key. And I think probably winning the FAI Cup was justification for the work we all put in and go, ‘OK, we're ready to go again’.
“I think everyone's happy to be back at it. Laurie Ryan is captain again this year and she's cracking the whip with the group. I can ask for no more.”
Athlone Town AFC is delighted to announce that Ciarán Kilduff will continue as the Women's Team Manager. Celebrating a successful season with the FAI Women’s Cup win, Ciarán has been instrumental in the team's development. His expertise and passion for the game. pic.twitter.com/oZgQF1f4mf
— Athlone Town AFC (@AthloneTownAFC) November 25, 2023
Like last season, the Women’s Premier Division will be played over just two rounds of games, with the FAI Cup and All-Ireland Cup set to fill the gap in between.
And that means no team can afford a slow start, Athlone included.
“It probably does,” Kilduff replied when asked if he feels the length of the league season is too short.
“Having been a player myself in the men's game, you prefer the games coming thick and fast.
“In the women's game, you can have long periods with no games and there's bye weeks and they're trying to throw in other cups. And that’s the bulk of the season.
“You’d probably like another round of games but obviously I'm going to say that. There's obviously obstacles in the way which mean that is not the case.
“But I probably would rather play more games. It makes life easier and gives the players more opportunities as well.
“With only 20 league games, if you don’t get a cup run, you're doing well if your entire season is 24, 25 games. It's not enough.
“So we'll take a competitive game even if it is the President's Cup first. It's a good opportunity to get your eyes on Peamount who are setting the standard.
“They're the champions for a reason last year and they'll give you a good opener to the season.”
That tie is set to take place at the Athlone Town Stadium on March 2 at 5pm, and it will give the former Dundalk, UCD, Shamrock Rovers and Shelbourne striker an opportunity to win a trophy.
Laurie Ryan and Karen Duggan representing their respective clubs in Áras an Uachtaráin today ahead of the Women’s President’s Cup!— LOI Women (@LoiWomen) February 6, 2024
Thanks to The President of Ireland Michael D Higgins for hosting the event!https://t.co/QsomnWBfn8pic.twitter.com/EdwvcmoCZa
Kilduff claimed the FAI Cup in his first year of senior management last term - which was his only realistic hope of winning a competition in 2023.
But 2024 gives him a fresh opportunity to win even more.
“We went on a good run of results after bringing in a lot of new players and staff,” he explained. “Things went well.
“Winning the FAI Cup was probably the icing on the cake but we knew this was only the start. I knew the FAI Cup had to be a priority and we went for it.
“But the new season means that's all in the past.”
So, what are Athlone’s targets this season?
When asked, the former Maynooth University Town assistant manager replied: “We finished 17 points behind Peamount last year in the league so can we close that gap?
“Can we potentially get in amongst it? That would be the plan.
“Athlone Town went to the last day and came up short in 2022 - finishing second in the league…
“Everyone at the start of the year will have the same ideas to do as well as they can and be as competitive as they can.
“The FAI Cup was my goal in the middle of the summer because it was the only competition I had a chance of winning at that stage. Thankfully we did as a group and the group deserved it.
“We’ll start the season firing on all fronts and we'll see how it goes. But you can't guarantee anything.
“We'll see how the first round of games goes. You’ll be on the home run before you know it.”