Athlone Town women prepare to face league champions
Elite level football is all about embracing challenges. And that's why Athlone Town’s Aife Haran is actually looking forward to this Saturday's clash with WNL champions Peamount United.
Haran and her Athlone Town team-mates would have every reason to be nervous ahead of the trip to PRL Park - especially since their opponents are top of the table after four wins in a row.
However, 19-year-old Haran has adopted a no fear attitude as they look to secure the best possible outcome from what looks like a daunting fixture in the SSE Airtricity Women's National League tomorrow (Saturday), kick-off 6pm.
Speaking to Breifne Earley and Meabh de Burca on the FinalWhistle.ie podcast, Haran said: "We're going in open-minded. Obviously we want to get a result whatever way, then again we're not kidding ourselves.
"Obviously they are top of the table, they are a top-class team, but we're going to up and try our best...if we can get a draw, absolutely brilliant, if we can get a win, even better, but we're not thinking too far (ahead)."
Athlone gained their second point from their four games this season when they played out a 2-2 draw at home to Cork City last weekend.
Melissa O’Kane scored a late equaliser for Athlone, after Emma Donohoe cancelled out Cork’s first goal with a penalty just before half-time (see report and pictures in this week’s Westmeath Independent).
Tommy Hewitt should have a full Athlone squad to pick from for the Peamount clash, with both Fiona Owens and Muireann Devaney available following suspension.
Preparing for a game against the likes of Peamount is not such a daunting task for Athlone any more, mainly because of everything that they learned last year in their debut season.
For Haran, who signed for the club from Sligo Rovers’ under-17 side, the learning process has been an enjoyable one as she continues to develop as a player in the top tier of women's football in the country.
"I'm learning a lot, especially playing against the top teams like Peamount and Shelbourne, they play such a fast-paced game. Every game I'm learning from and it's been really, really fun," said Haran.
"The pace of the game [has been the biggest challenge], especially in midfield, you do not get a second to think. They are attacking you straight away and you need to make up your mind really quickly. Even fitness-wise, it's just a whole different ball game."
Quick decisions and a lot of effort will be required by Athlone this Saturday, but that is the least Haran would expect as she prepares for this next challenge.