Athlone Town will strive to improve on 2023 campaign as league fixtures confirmed

Former Athlone Town striker, Frantz Pierrot, has departed for Drogheda United prior to the start of the 2024 league season.  Photo by Michael P Ryan/Sportsfile

Former Athlone Town striker, Frantz Pierrot, has departed for Drogheda United prior to the start of the 2024 league season. Photo by Michael P Ryan/Sportsfile

After achieving a place in the 2023 First Division play-offs, Athlone Town will be hoping to once more mount a challenge in the top half of the table next season.

The Town were only undone in the closing stages of the second leg play-off against Waterford, who subsequently achieved promotion to the Premier Division following their defeat of Cork City. It meant a return to the top flight for the Blues and a quick drop down for City. Galway United were promoted as champions meaning the division now looks a lot more winnable with both of the 'big spenders' in the higher echelons for 2024. UCD were also relegated and are not be expected to be serious contenders for a swift return to the Premier Division, while Cork will need to start the 2024 season positively if they are to bounce back at the first attempt.

The excitement is mounting with the fixtures for 2024 campaign issued. The season commences in mid-February, Athlone Town at home in round one of a 36 game campaign. Fellow play-off rivals Wexford are the visitors while on the same night there is a novel Munster derby as Cork entertain Kerry.

Athlone Town undertake the first of a number of long trips in round two when they travel south to take on Cobh. Ramblers were beaten in the First Division play-off final and under new manager Gary Hunt would be hopeful of maintaining a challenge. The game will take place in Turners Cross as St Colman’s Park is under renovation.

The first Midlands derby of the season takes place at the end of March when Longford Town are the visitors. This is followed by a visit to Cork to take on relegated City. There will be a mid-season break in June and the FAI Cup will then take centre stage at the end of July.

Athlone Town complete their season with a long journey to Mounthawk Park in Tralee to take on Kerry. The play-off semi finals follow and the curtain comes down on the domestic season with the staging of the FAI Cup final at the Aviva Stadium in early November.

Preparations off the field have been relatively low key to date. It is understood that Dario Castelo will continue as coach with further assistance expected in due course.

There was a blow when top scorer Frantz Pierrot opted to join Premier Division outfit Drogheda United. The striker put himself in the shop window with over 20 goals last season and should be a useful acquisition for the Louth outfit.

A number of last season’s panel have already opted to stay with one other new signing announced to date, Dan McKenna being the first player to commit to the club for the 2024 season. The midfielder only joined the club midway through last season and would be hoping to enjoy a good pre-season.

The only new signing has seen Dylan Hand who rejoins the club after a spell with Longford. Goalkeeper Enda Minogue was impressive in 2023 and the club did well to once again secure his services. German Rodriguez and Oisin Duffy have also re-signed with more to follow.

 

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