First Division Playoffs: Waterford to face Cobh Ramblers as Athlone Town and Wexford are knocked out

Ireland underage international Romeo Akachuckwu scored a hat-trick for Waterford to seal their place in the First Division promotion play-off final next weekend.

The substitute was brought on with just over half an hour to play and he made a telling impact. 

With their tie against Athlone Town level from Tuesday night’s first-leg, the midfielder broke the second-leg deadlock with a fine finish in the 64th minute. 

Ryan Burke combined well with Ronan Coughlan down the left flank before the in-form striker danced through the Athlone defence before dragging the ball back for Akachuckwu to score. 

But Athlone were handed a lifeline moments later when Frantz Pierrot scored a penalty.

The Town’s striker got on the end of an Enda Minogue clearance before turning Derik Osede, while being felled. He made no mistake in converting from the spot. 

But that parity did not last long as Akachuckwu once again combined with Coughlan to score, rolling the ball home past Minogue on the break. 

And with Athlone pushing bodies forward, they were caught again on the counter-attack with Akachuckwu scoring his third to take home the match ball - and secure a 4-2 aggregate win. 

The Blues will face Munster rivals Cobh Ramblers in the final, scheduled to take place at Turner’s Cross next Saturday. 

Ramblers saw off Wexford in their respective semi-final tie with 1-1 draw at St Colman’s Park. 

But for a time it looked as if James Keddy’s side would be the side advancing into next weekend’s First Division final. 

James Crawford - son of Ireland under-21 boss Jim - rifled his shot into the net to level the two-legged tie just before the half-time break. 

But James O’Leary was on hand to spare Ramblers blushes with a second-half goal after getting on the end of a Jack Doherty cross into the danger area.

And that goal sealed a 2-1 aggregate victory for Shane Keegan’s side.

As mentioned, next weekend’s First Division promotion final is set to take place at Turner’s Cross on Saturday afternoon, although no time has been slated for the fixture. 

In a statement, the FAI also confirmed that they may have to change the location of the venue if needed.