HISTORY FOR ATHLONE Town, and a remarkable debut season for Ciarán Kilduff.
“Dramatic anyway,” he beamed after their first-ever Women’s FAI Cup final win.
It took a penalty shootout to separate the Midlanders and Shelbourne after a 2-2 thriller at Tallaght Stadium this afternoon, super sub Gillian Keenan sending the game to spot kicks with a 116th-minute equaliser.
There, Athlone atoned for last year’s decider defeat to Shels and rounded off an impressive cup run.
“We have had a couple of those shootouts, I don’t know if my heart is able for it,” Kilduff told reporters afterwards. “I’m just delighted for the girls to be honest, it’s really nothing to do with me.
“They showed that character, Ken [Kiernan, assistant coach] and I steered them a little bit, but they were excellent and never gave up. We were 4-1 down here to Shamrock Rovers last week and I echoed that to them at half time of extra-time, saying ‘We’ve been here before’. We were actually in a worse situation last week and found a way.”
“There is just something about Gillian,” he added. “She is such a great character, she can be quiet sometimes but she’s just a great person. For her to bag what feels like a winner, I couldn’t be happier and prouder of her.
“I told the girls that sometimes the hero is on the bench. I am not saying it’s a thing in the women’s game but everyone was obsessed with starting, starting. Obviously I never started, but I always wanted to be on the pitch when the game was there to be won and the hero can be made.”
Kilduff obviously did it all as a player in the League of Ireland.
Just how does this stack up?
“Ah no, this is different. I got one medal for anything I won as a player. Today, I honestly feel like I got 26 because you have the responsibility of all of those players, all of those families, the club, knew how much everyone wanted it. I probably value mine the least, I’m just happy they won it.”
The 35-year-old admits The Town targetted FAI Cup success from his mid-season arrival, when he filled the vacancy left by Tommy Hewitt.
“This was always the plan. When I took over we were in seventh position in the league, the league was never going to be won, the cup was the only thing we could salvage this season. We didn’t have it easy.
“We beat Peamount who won the league, we beat Shelbourne who finished second and beat Galway United who are All-Island champions along the route, and Sligo to boot. We did it the hard way but we earned it. The hard work paid off.”
Kilduff said two sessions this week were spent practicing penalties, and also paid tribute to departing Shelbourne manager Noel King.
“I have nothing but respect and I want to wish Noel and his staff well. What they have done for Irish football and Shels in the last couple of years has been amazing and something I’ll take inspiration from myself.”2023-11-19T21:18:11Z dg43tfdfdgfd