‘New Women’s All-Island Cup to showcase top talent‘ –Athlone’s Chloe Singleton

Chloe Singleton at the launch of the All-Island Cup.© SPORTSFILE

Seán O'Connor

ATHLONE TOWN midfielder Chloe Singleton has hailed the new Women’s All-Island Cup competition and believes it will be a good platform for leagues on both sides of the border to showcase their talent.

2022 Women’s Premier Division runners-up Athlone were drawn against back-to-back champions Shelbourne, as well as Galway United and Linfield in group one. Group two proved the standout with Wexford Youths, Peamount United, Shamrock Rovers and Glentoran drawn together.

The inaugural cup competition, comprising of 16 teams, kicks off the week ending June 18 with the final pencilled in for July 16, and will ensure that domestic football continues while the Women’s Premier Division breaks for two months in June to aid Ireland’s World Cup preparations.

Singleton is relishing the games this summer and is looking forward to testing themselves against their Northern Ireland counterparts.

“I think it’s a good idea to get this All-Island Cup going, because it will show the standard across all of Ireland,” said Singleton, after the draw was made at FAI Headquarters in Abbotstown yesterday.

“You’ve got the top teams in both leagues, so I think it will definitely be an interesting group stage. It’ll be a difficult one to get out of, but definitely doable.

“I personally haven't (played teams from Northern Ireland before). It's an exciting thing to look forward to. We had the League Cup before but we didn’t have northern teams involved in that. It’s exciting to see what the standard is like, that’s what I’m most looking forward to.

“The way the league falls this year, we play everyone twice instead of three times, so this breaks it up. We are still playing, which is obviously what we want. We want to keep training and keep playing, and with the run up to the World Cup it’s nice to have games ourselves and to have something to look forward to this summer.”

After five years with Galway WFC, Singleton made the move back to her native Athlone last winter and despite a tricky start with four wins from their opening nine games, the midfielder is confident her side can make up ground on those above them with just four points separating the top five currently.

“We play everyone twice, so it’s more difficult, you have less of a chance to catch up,” added the 22-year-old, with 2023 a shorter league season compared to last term.

“We are coming around to the second half of the season in the next couple of weeks, so it’s about gathering as many points as possible. Dropping them just isn’t really an option.

“I’m very happy with the move, I love the girls, the club and the coaches. Everyone thinks I’m from Galway, because I was with them for five years.

“We’d want to have more points. We are sixth, which isn’t ideal. But when you look at the way the points are, it’s quite tight at the top. We have Bohemians this weekend, so if we can gather three points off them it’s closing that gap towards the top.”

Tommy Hewitt’s side enjoyed a stunning campaign last season, going from seventh the previous year to finishing just two points off the top last term, and also finishing runners-up in the FAI Women’s Cup.

Athlone lost key players like Jessica Hennessey to the Hoops and Emily Corbet to Wexford Youths over the off-season however and after back-to-back 1-0 defeats, Singleton is keen to get back to winning ways tomorrow and help Athlone reach the heights they did in 2022.

“When we compare this season to last, we actually have more points at this stage, but looking back at the last two games, that’s six points we’ve lost,” added the midfielder.

“But when we look at our performances, we are performing a lot better than last year which is what we want. But it doesn’t really mean anything if we are not getting the three points.

“We are happy enough comparing this year to last year, but at the same time, with the shorter league, we want to be pushing on now and turning those good performances into actual results.”