Match Preview: Rovers take on Athlone Town Women on Saturday

Sligo Rovers return to action on Saturday with a trip to Athlone Town as the Women’s Premier Division  (WPD) resumes after the World Cup mid-season break with the Avenir Sports Cup filling the void in June and July, writes Conall Collier.

The Sligo Rovers players performed with enthusiasm and determination in the Avenir Sports Cup and will be looking for a morale-boosting display against Athlone in the build up to the FAI Cup quarter-final tie at the Showgrounds the following Sunday, 27th August against Bonagee Utd.

Another target will be to put some points on the board as both Cork City (bottom of the table) and Treaty Utd (four points ahead of Sligo Rovers) have displayed improved form in the All-Island Cup competition.

“There are lots of positives that we can take out of the first part of the season and we can now focus on those and hopefully push on when the action resumes against Athlone Town and then there is the FAI Cup the following weekend against Bonagee Utd,” stated Bit O’Red manager Steve Feeney.

“It’s not all that different this season to last season, the bottom three – ourselves, Cork and Treaty, then there is a mid-table group and a top four group. Our immediate target now has to be to finish above Cork and Treaty,” he added.

For Athlone Town, it has been a disappointing campaign so far in which the achievements of last season have been somewhat diluted.

Currently sitting in seventh place, they will be eager to move up the table and will be looking to repeat the performance this Saturday that gave them a 3-1 victory at the Showgrounds last April.

Madison Gibson, Roisin Molloy and Gillian Keenan scored for the Athlone women on that occasion with Casey Howe finding the net for Sligo Rovers.

Athlone Town’s last game in the WPD was on Saturday 3rd June, an away loss to Peamount Utd while Sligo Rovers lost to Galway Utd on Saturday 10th June.

Three games apiece followed in the Avenir Sports All-Island Cup which saw Athlone with a new manager, Ciaran Kilduff, on the sideline for a 2-1 win against Linfield in the final group game.

Also in the Avenir Cup, Sligo Rovers earned a 1-1 draw at Solitude against eventual beaten finalists Cliftonville in the final group game.

In the lead up to the resumption of the season, each side has eight games remaining, both managers have had to go through a type of pre-season scenario as players returned to training and a number of friendlies arranged.

Athlone Town recorded a 2-1 win against Peamount while Sligo Rovers made the tip to Limerick for a game against Treaty Utd which the hosts won by 3-2.

New players also feature for each side with Athlone recruiting goalkeeper Katherine Hess who played for the USA u-18 team. Other players from the USA include defender Jesi Rossman, Lauren Karabin and Carly Wetzel while closer to home, Katie Keane, a goalkeeper from Shelbourne who played against Athlone in the Avenir Cup this year has also signed.

There are some new faces for Sligo Rovers as well with manager Steve Feeney adding to his panel with goalkeeper Caoimhe O’Reilly and Donegal woman Eimear Lafferty.

Castlebar native Caoimhe O’Reilly played in the Women’s League previously with Peamount Utd, Castlebar Celtic and UCD Waves before making the move to the UK where she played with Watford, Enfield Town and Hounslow.

Eimear Lafferty also played with UCD Waves and Peamount in the past, but more recently with Derry City.

The new players will bolster the squad for the remainder of the season as will the return of Kerri O’Hara who has recovered from injury.

That trio will be in contention for starting places against Athlone, but Keeva Scanlon will miss the remainder of the season through injury.

Kick-off in Athlone on Saturday is at 7pm and the game is on LOITV.