ATHLONE TOWN 3 WEXFORD YOUTHS 0
Athlone Town women’s team created history when they reached the final of the FAI Cup at home last Saturday afternoon, defeating holders and current league leaders, Wexford Youths, in a deserved semi-final victory before a well attended Lissywollen crowd.
In their short existence, Athlone could not have dreamed of reaching the 2022 FAI Cup final especially when the experienced holders of the cup stood in their way. A good start was essential and within five minutes of the game commencing Maddie Gibson opened the scoring as she curled a magnificent shot into the top corner of the Wexford net, a strike which had the majority of the largest attendance at the stadium for a women’s game in full voice.
Wexford were rattled but as holders were not about to hand over the trophy meekly. Athlone, though, were much improved from the team that had lost the season opener to the same opposition and Tommy Hewitt’s charges struck once more on the half hour mark. Gibson was again on target as she forced an error from the away defence allowing her to scoop the ball into an unguarded net. It left Athlone with a nice two goal lead to carry into the half time break.
Wexford made a double substitution for the second half in a bid to turn the tie back their way. Athlone were relatively inexperienced at this level but sealed their place in the decider with an assured display after the break. The victory was sealed as Gibson completed her hat trick on the hour mark. Muireann Devaney was involved in the build-up as she gained possession in midfield to release Gibson. The Town striker still had a lot of work to do as she raced towards goal but finished with aplomb from the edge of the penalty area. A magnificent evening for Gibson was almost completed with a fourth goal after 70 minutes but goalkeeper Maeve Sinnott made a good save.
Any comeback from the holders failed to materialise, a shot from their captain Kylie Murphy which hit the bar was as close as they came to scoring and their hopes of winning the trophy for a fifth time were now shattered.
Athlone deservedly made the decider, the club’s first senior final since the men reached the FAI Cup final back in 1924. Shelbourne will provide the opposition in the decider at the Tallaght Stadium on the first Sunday of November, the Reds seeing off Bohemian FC in an all Dublin last four encounter to make their second consecutive final.
An already good campaign could get even better as Athlone are now in pursuit of an unprecedented league and cup double. Next up for the Town ladies is another crack at Wexford on Saturday, also at home. Athlone kept in contention for league honours with a fine win over Shels and another win against the table toppers will move Hewitt’s team to within three points of Wexford. The dream of a double is very much on.