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In many ways Athlone Town defied expectations this year and in other ways they did exactly what they set out to. Whatever perspective is taken, there is reason to be upbeat.

Manager Tommy Hewitt knew that he was facing something of an unknown challenge as he prepared a squad to enter into their debut season in the Women's National League. Now that the season has ended for them, he can reflect on a job well done.

Such is the nature of Hewitt he will be quick to share any plaudits with his backroom staff, particularly coaches Darren Whelan and Anto Fay, while he would insist on the spotlight focusing on the players. And that is only proper order considering what they achieved.

Joint top of Group 2 would have been noteworthy for any team, but for a League newcomer it is seriously impressive. There were three League wins and a draw, which may not seem a lot but remember that this was a truncated season and there are seriously strong teams in Peamount United, Shelbourne, Wexford Youths, Cork City and Galway WFC to contend with.

As the season went on Athlone grew in confidence. In fact, they developed a reputation for bouncing back whenever things went against them. That sort of attitude was a surprise to see in such a young, and largely local, squad but it was also hugely encouraging as it proved that these players belonged in the League.

The focus on individual players shifted several times with captain Paula Doran starting the season really well, goalkeeper Niamh Coombes finishing it on a high, while Katelyn Keogh, Emma Donohoe, Leah Brady, Kayleigh Shine, Zara Lawless, Kayla Brady and Kellie Brennan all consistently impressed.

There is definitely a lot more to come from this Athlone team. Hewitt knows it and so too does anyone who came up against them in their first season. And that is the platform from which they need to keep building from.

Women's football in the Midlands is alive and well, and Athlone Town have been a welcome addition to the Women's National League.