Athlone u16 footballers put in an inspired second half performance to see off the challenge of a highly fancied Coralstown/Kinnegad side in the precursor to the senior final replay last Sunday. The blues had wind advantage in the opening half but failed to bring their shooting boots and trailed 0-4 to 0-3 at the break.
Kinnegad appeared to be in the driving seat with a one-point lead and wind advantage to come. Indiscipline didn’t help their cause however as talented wing back Darren Leech saw red for an unsavoury incident in the opening minute of the second half. With that said they did seize the initiative in the minutes following the sending off and hit 1-1 without reply to forge four points ahead.
The questions were now really being asked of the young Athlone men and they weren’t found wanting. Aidan Byrne supplied the cross and Ryan Gaffey calmly slotted home to cut the deficit to one point. Richie Greene bagged the equaliser and the roving corner back put the Shannonsiders noses in front. Further points from Peter Ryan and Gaffey put the issue beyond doubt.
This was a hugely important win for the young Athlone side, many of whom had tasted defeat in the minor decider a week earlier. If they can stick together and work hard at their game they are sure to make headlines again in both club and county colours in the coming years.
Kinnegad have already been crowned league champions so don’t finish the year empty-handed. Likewise they have plenty of fine individual players in their ranks.
It was a pity that an otherwise well contested game was marred by two unsavoury incidents which resulted in red cards. It is a steep learning curve for the two young players involved. Yet an equally big pity was the booing of a young footballer as he prepared to kick a free. Surely such behaviour has no place in Cusack Park or any other GAA ground and those involved should be ashamed. Thankfully it didn’t affect the accuracy of the player in question but it did leave a sour taste, even if I am on this occasion a bit biased!
Athlone captain Mattie Darling, who led by example throughout, fittingly dedicated the win to two late club stalwarts Davy Allen and Kay O’Connell. Davy played a huge part in the development of this side before his untimely departure while Kay was ever-present at matches and to do whatever was asked of her around the club.