Dylan Gavin was the home hero as his two goals steered Athlone Town to victory in the U15 national final against St Patrick’s Athletic last Saturday evening (November 25 ).
The home side trailed at the half-time break as the Saints looked the more likely winners of the trophy in its inaugural season. However, a penalty kick levelled matters and, deep into stoppage time, Gavin struck again to send the huge home support into raptures.
Having been on their travels in the previous rounds, Athlone were rewarded with home advantage in the decider. The Dublin team settled quickly though, and the first chance fell to Cian Kavanagh, who was denied by Town goalkeeper Sean O’Toole.
Athlone replied by earning the first corner kick, which saw captain Israel Kimazo’s shot tipped over the bar by Aaron Davis. The deadlock was broken after 11 minutes following a cross from the left. Cian Kavanagh failed to properly connect with the ball, but Kyle Conway was on hand to fire a low shot to the net from just inside the penalty area.
The Saints could have doubled their advantage moments later, but O’Toole made a good block to deny Kavanagh from close range. The away pressure continued with Kian Corbally just clearing the bar with a shot. Best chance of an equaliser came on the half hour mark when Ronan Garvan’s dipping effort just cleared the bar. The Saints had further chances as the half progressed but the lead remained at just one goal when the half-time whistle sounded.
Pats had an early chance to double their lead on the resumption of play when awarded a free kick, but Conway’s goal bound strike was pushed away by O’Toole. The next chance fell to Kenny Lee, but once more O’Toole came to the rescue.
The Saints looked comfortable at this stage, but were really rattled when the home side equalised from the penalty spot on 65 minutes. Daragh Reilly fouled Adam Lennon and Gavin assumed responsibility for the resulting spot kick. His initial effort was pushed away to his right by Davis but the follow up effort from the Irish international found the net.
Athlone were full of confidence as the away challenge surprisingly faded and five corners in as many minutes kept up the pressure. Conway did have a late chance to restore the Saints lead with a free kick, but once again O’Toole could not be beaten.
The final looked to be heading to extra time when Athlone struck for the winner. Two minutes into stoppage time, Gavin broke clear and a superb finish saw the ball enter the far corner of the net past the keeper’s right. There was just enough time remaining for the game to restart before the final whistle sounded with a mass pitch invasion hailing a fabulous home victory.
League chairman Eamon Naughton then presented the trophy to Athlone captain Kimazo, with Gavin also receiving his Man of the Match Award for his goal scoring exploits.