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U20 Championship Semi Final

posted 18 Nov 2018, 14:26 by Athlone GAA

Athlone 2-9 The Downs 1-10

Our U20s qualified for the first Westmeath Under 20 Final when they travelled to The Downs on Saturdy afternoon to take on a very strong home side in the semi-final and came away with a deserved win after a thrilling encounter played in perfect conditions.

Starting with the aid of the wind, Athlone controlled possession in the early stages, and led by 0-2 to 0-0 after ten minutes, through points from Stephen O'Connor and a Benny Martin free, although the lead should've been greater with the Athlone attack guilty of some bad wides.  After The Downs had gotten themselves on the board from a free, Diarmuid Martin restored Athlone's two-point advantage, but another Downs score left only a point between the sides as half-time approached, with Athlone missing several opportunities to add to their total with some poor shot selection and wayward finishing.  They did find their shooting boots just before the break with three points in rapid succession from Eamon Martin, Josh Beaumont and Daniel Reid putting some daylight between the teams, although The Downs did have the final word of the half through another pointed free.  In fact, Athlone were fortunate that the teams didn't go in level at the break as it took a crucial interception from James Finlass deep into stoppage time to deny the home side a seemingly certain goal and to leave the half-time score 0-6 to 0-3 in Athlone's favour.

Now playing with the aid of the elements, the hosts came flying out of the blocks in the second half and it took them only a minute to draw themselves level with a goal from a rebound after John Duddy had made an excellent save.  It looked like Athlone would rue those first half misses when they fell behind for the first time soon after to a point from play, but to their credit, they dug deep and regained their lead when Kieran Colclough side-footed a loose ball to the net for their opening goal.  Again, however the home side fought back with two points made it a draw game and it looked like they were about to go back ahead, until Athlone's youngest player, Eamon Martin, made a crucial interception to launch a counterattack that he himself finished with a well-taken point.  This inspirational score gave the visitors a huge boost and another member of the Martin clan, Benny, put them two points ahead, before Kieran Colclough added his second goal with another cool finish.  However, any hopes that this would mean the end of The Downs challenge were dashed when they fought back with three quickfire points of their own to reduce the gap back to just two with 10 minutes still to play.  Athlone were now on the backfoot but superb defensive work prevented the home side from reducing the deficit even further and Josh Beaumont lifted the siege with an important point on the break.   The Downs increased the pressure as they went looking for the equalising goal but, despite some nervous moments, the Athlone defence held firm, except for conceding a point from a free with two minutes left.  This meant that a goal would've knocked Athlone out, but superb disciplined defending from the entire team meant that The Downs were unable to fashion the necessary chance, and when the final whistle sounded after a nerve wracking four minutes of injury time, Athlone had held on to win a thriller on a scoreline of 2-9 to 1-10.

Athlone now advance to the inaugural Under 20 Final against Rosemount-Castledaly which is to be played in Cusack Park next Sunday, November 25th in Cusack Park at 2pm and we ask that all supporters of the club come out and support the lads in this hugely important fixture.

Athlone:  John Duddy, Joe Devins, James Finlass, Paddy Ryan, Donagh Prendergast, Diarmuid Martin, Paddy McGettigan, Shane Allen, Daniel Reid (0-1), Kieran Colclough (2-0), Eamon Martin (0-2), Sean Dowd (0-1), Josh Beaumont (0-2), Stephen O'Connor (0-1), Benny Martin (0-2) Subs Used:  Niall Doolan, Mark Egan, Conor Rushe, Enda Daly.

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