*Laurie Ryan. 

LAURIE RYAN captained Athlone Town to success in last Sunday’s Sports Direct FAI Cup Final.

A multiple senior championship winner with Banner Ladies, Laurie burst into tears when Gillian Keenan rifled home the volley that sent Sunday’s decider to penalties.

Last year, Laurie captained Athlone when they fell to a 2-0 loss to Shelbourne in the cup decider.

She revealed, “I actually turned to Gillian in the dressing room before we came out to play today and I said, ‘I kind of have a feeling you’re going to score today’”. She added, “I think that’s our fourth penalty shootout we’ve won this year between the President’s Cup, Galway United, Peamount and now today. If I don’t see one again, I won’t be sorry!”

Sunday’s cup triumph was just reward for Ryan’s commitment to the Athlone cause. They lost a lot of talent last winter having performed superbly in the 2022 campaign. The departure of boss Tommy Hewitt in June was another blow, but ultimately that allowed the club to hit the reset button.

In came Ciaran Kiduff to re-energise the squad with new signings and fresh ideas. “We all had great faith in Tommy [Hewitt] so that was a hard changeover and Ciaran knew that,” she admitted.

“He didn’t try to step on anyone’s toes, he was so respectful to everyone. He really made an effort to get to know us all, that probably is the smallest thing in the world but it made the biggest difference. Even with me, he came in when I was in an All-Ireland final with Clare, he had to trust in me that I wasn’t lying when I said that I always go to training and I don’t usually miss it. He’s been fantastic and Ken [Kiernan] with him, and Dylan [McGoey], they’ve brought the standard on to the next level. They’ve given up so much to help us, and I just want them to know that we really appreciate it all as well.”

Ryan wants to use Sunday’s glory as a proper launchpad for more trophies.

“Obviously we fell off in the league and we just felt it wasn’t reflective of us as a group,” she said. “We had to sit down and reassess when he came in and think what could we do. Our goal was to beat everyone we played. The only team that had beaten us was Shelbourne so we felt like we would get another crack at them in the cup.

“Once we went on a bit of a run, the belief started to creep in and we realised maybe the first half of the season wasn’t as much of a write-off as we thought. We were very close in a lot of those matches, it’s just the way it goes. We’ll celebrate this one for a while and we’ll talk about next year after that. But yeah, definitely. The club have ambitions to go further, and this is just a stepping stone for it,” the former Lifford Ladies defender added.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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