Athlone Town will have the home advantage when they take on St Patrick’s Athletic in the inaugural SSE Airtricity U15 final on Saturday evening.
Having beaten Waterford in the quarter final, another away trip in the last four saw The Town young guns head to Donegal for last Saturday afternoon’s showdown (November 18 ). Finn Harps were the opposition in Bonagee, and Athlone again returned home victorious.
Under former player Kevin McHugh, Harps have enjoyed a dominant campaign in the inaugural season of the U15 league. After losing to Sligo, McHugh’s charges remained unbeaten for the rest of the campaign as they topped Group One. Athlone, also under the charge of former player Dermot Lennon, have likewise enjoyed an impressive season, finishing second in Group Two. Harps may have been favourites, but Athlone kept up their good away form with a narrow win.
The home team dominated the early stages, but the failure to put away a number of good chances was to prove costly. Athlone settled to the task and took the lead just before the half hour mark, against the run of play. Dylan Gavin continued his good form with a well taken score. The Town player, who is part of the Ireland international set up, had also been on the mark days earlier against Poland.
Star striker for Harps, Luke Rudden came close to grabbing an equaliser, but his strike from a narrow angle was saved by Town goalkeeper Sean O’Toole. Athlone broke and Adam Lennon doubled the advantage just before the half-time break. It may have been a smash and grab lead, but Athlone still looked in control when the half-time whistle sounded.
Harps came back for the second half in determined mood and made a perfect restart reducing the deficit just a minute into the half. The Town defence was slow to clear the danger and Conor Black was on hand to head past the helpless O’Toole.
Athlone had chances to restore their two goal advantage as Harps went in search of an equaliser. In spite of enjoying lots of possession, the hosts were unable to make the breakthrough for a second goal. It was not all one way traffic, though, as Athlone could have sealed victory in the closing stages only to be off target from some good scoring opportunities.
Athlone will be the hosts for the eagerly anticipated decider. St Patrick’s Athletic, who beat Bray in the other semi-final, are the visitors and will provide a stern challenge. Athlone native Kyle Conway, who scored in the win over Bray, is in the Saints squad, and with a number of international players set to feature on both sides, an exciting final is in prospect.