‘I’m so proud of everyone’
by Daire Walsh
Having watched last year’s decider from the stands, Athlone native and player of the match Chloe Singleton was thrilled to play a significant role in Athlone Town’s historic victory against Shelbourne in the Women’s FAI Cup final at Tallaght Stadium last Sunday.
Still a Galway United player when The Town contested the 2022 showpiece in the south Dublin venue, Singleton subsequently joined Athlone in January of this year and was selected in a pivotal attacking midfield role for their latest cup final appearance. Just 23 years of age, she took to the big occasion with considerable vigour and was subsequently named player of the match following a stellar individual performance.
It was a rollercoaster affair in Tallaght, with Dana Scheriff and Gillian Keenan finding the target either side of a Jemma Quinn double for Shelbourne to ensure the teams were inseparable after 120 enthralling minutes of action. This meant that Athlone found themselves in a penalty shootout for the third time in this year’s competition and – like their earlier encounters against Singleton’s former club Galway and league champions Peamount United – the Midlanders came up trumps from 12 yards to seal their first-ever Women’s FAI Cup title in style.
“I was actually in the stand here last year watching the girls. This is my first cup final and I’m always like ‘I wish I was there, I want to be on that pitch’. For me this week, it was all about taking in the week and all about enjoying the moments. I didn’t want it to bypass me and then think it’s gone in the blink of an eye,” Singleton remarked after their 4-3 shootout win.
“Nobody likes penalties, but we have enough experience throughout the year for a shootout. I think it was a good showcase for the league in general. I think it will just show that the standard of football in Ireland is actually growing and it’s getting bigger and bigger. I think it’s just an amazing day out and to lift that trophy at the end of it, I’m just so proud of everyone.”
While regular skipper Laurie Ryan was the one to raise the silverware aloft at the end of a breathtaking affair, the Clare native’s withdrawal at half-time in extra-time meant that vice-captain Singleton was in possession of the armband come the end of the game.
Considering she is one of the local players in the squad, her temporary elevation to this leadership role was an extra special moment that topped off an already unforgettable occasion for Singleton.
“It’s a great honour for Ciaran [Kilduff, Athlone manager] to appoint me as vice-captain this year. I’m from Athlone. Not a lot of people know that because I played with Galway for so many years, but I’m originally a townie!
“So for him to see that when he came in and for him to appoint me vice-captain, it was just a real proud moment to wear that armband. Especially on cup final day. I’m just so proud of everyone. I can’t put into words how proud I am of the girls. The staff, the club and the fans are still standing there now. Genuinely, I’m starstruck.”
While this is a success that will be rightfully celebrated for some time to come by all those involved in Athlone, Singleton and her club colleagues certainly won’t be resting on their laurels.
They finished the 2022 Women’s Premier Division season – albeit with a radically different group of players – in second spot, just two points adrift of Shelbourne. When 2024 comes into view, it is this competition that Singleton and the Athlone players will have their eyes on.
“League is the next step. The league didn’t go our way this year unfortunately, but I think we really turned it around in the second half of the season. The next step forward is competing for that league trophy,” Singleton added.
“We saw Peamount lift it there and what a feeling that must be for them, especially with all the backlash and everything that went on this season. Fair play to them, but that’s what we’re striving for next year.”