FAI Cup Report: Athlone Town 4 - 4 Waterford (Waterford win 4-2 on penalties)Sat, Jul 24 2021
Simon O’Gorman reports from Athlone Town Stadium
Glen McAuley’s stunning last-second strike wasn’t enough for Athlone Town as they were edged out in a penalty shoot-out by Waterford following a drama-packed FAI Cup first round tie.
The striker sealed his hat-trick with a spectacular strike directly from the kick-off to force penalty kicks as the First Division side came up just short in Lissywollen.
McAuley scored twice from the spot, either side of Stephen Meaney’s equaliser, after goals from Anthony Wordsworth and Shane Griffin had put the Blues 2-0 up.
Greg Halford netted late for force extra time and the home side looked to have won it thanks to George Forrest, only for McAuley to level it up with virtually the last kick of extra time.
The opening twenty minutes was played at a blistering pace with both teams fully engaging in the spirit of a Cup tie.
Straight out of the blocks Athlone burst forward with Shane Barnes and the new signing from Shelbourne, McAuley, forcing an early corner.
That willingness to chase every ball became McAuley’s calling card but as early as the fourth minute we also saw telling hesitancy in the home defence and, while they escaped on that occasion, they would not be so fortunate later on.
Derek Daly, always a threat on Athlone’s left wing, took a heavy touch when through on six minutes, allowing Eddie Nolan to get across and cover.
It was Waterford’s turn to threaten shortly after when Wordsworth’s snapshot from the edge of the box drew an excellent full-length save from Kayleum Rice.
Halfway through the opening period the tempo dropped, which suited the visitors more. Waterford were happier to build patiently while Athlone, robbed of a tempestuous atmosphere, found it harder to initiate attacks.
Gradually the tally of half-chances swung Waterford’s way. Griffin hammered a shot narrowly wide after 34 minutes and four minutes later Junior Quitina had a fine mazy run ended inside the box with a firm challenge.
But five minutes from the interval Waterford hit the front. A diagonal ball in from the left was intended for striker Cian Kavanagh but a weak clearance delivered the ball to Wordsworth’s feet.
He took a touch, 15 yards from goal, picked his spot and curled a lovely shot around Rice and into the Athlone net.
What Athlone needed was to re-establish the high tempo with which they started the game and they did this admirably as soon as the second half began.
Within a minute McAuley had forced a corner and, although it was cleared, the home side’s dander was clearly up.
A minute later McAuley went down inside the box and, although no penalty was given, it was perhaps a portent of things to come. But for the moment it was Waterford who seized the initiative.
Dylan Hand displayed uncertainty in defence, losing track of a weak cross from Quitina. but keeper Paul Martin was alert enough to dive on the loose ball.
Two minutes later, though, Quitina played Griffin into the inside-left channel and he blasted the ball high into the net to put the visitors two up.
All of Athlone’s energy now seeped out of their game and it looked for a long while as if Waterford were home and dry. Not so.
With 22 minutes remaining, Wordsworth was harshly shown a second yellow for kicking the ball away and the Blues were down to ten men.
Offered this reprieve, Athlone resolutely launched themselves back into the game with a triple substitution that would have a dramatic effect of proceedings.
Within a minute one sub, Oisin Duffy, had hit the post. Within three minutes another sub, Stephen Meaney, had been fouled inside the box.
This time Damien McGraith obliged and McAuley rammed home the penalty to bring the home side back into it.
Eight minutes later, and with just seven left on the clock, a goalmouth scramble ended with Meaney hooking a shot into the Waterford net off the far post.
Suddenly Athlone were not only on level terms but looking odds on to go on and win it. This impression hardened when, with just two minutes left, McGraith awarded another penalty after Darragh Power appeared to be penalised for a hand ball.
Whatever the reason for it, McAuley obliged, hammering his second spotter into the exact same corner of the Waterford net.
It was now, surely, all over, yes? No. Not at all. In added time Waterford won a corner on the left which Griffin delivered to the back post where Greg Halford , yet another substitute, looped his header beyond the despairing reach of Rice.
Breathlessly, we entered extra-time and for 30 minutes the players fought heroically for that one moment, that one opening, which might win the game.
No one succeeded until the second minute of added time when Waterford won another corner. Just as at the end of normal time it was delivered deep into the goal area. This time two Waterford players got their heads to it, bouncing it along the goalmouth for all the world like the set up for a volleyball smash, until it reached George Forrest who nudged it over the line and into the net.
But it still wasn’t over. Incredibly, with the alotted added time up, Athlone tipped off. The ball was tapped to McAuley and he just leathered it.
Up it went, into the night sky, descending only after it had cleared Paul Martin’s grasp and landed in the goal.
The ground went berserk and a penalty shootout followed. All succeeded with their kicks until young Jack Reynolds saw his effort saved by the foot of the post.
John Martin scored his for Waterford and so Dylan Hand had to score or the Blues would go through.
Hand’s kick was also saved and the most extraordinary cup tie I have ever seen ended in victory for the Premier Division side.
Athlone Town:); Keyleum Rice (gk); Aidan Friel (Ray O’Sullivan 101), Dylan Hand, Garry Comerford, David Brookes (Killian Cantwell 61); Jack Reynolds, Daniel McKenna, Jamie Hollywood (Stephen Meaney 71), Derek Daly (Oisin Duffy 71); Glen McAuley, Shane Barnes (Brandon McCann 71).
Subs Not Used: Tommy Holland (gk), Scott Delaney, Tumelo, Tlou.
Booked: Jack Reynolds (97).
Waterford: Paul Martin (gk); Darragh Power (Tunmise Sobowale 101), George Forrest, Eddie Nolan, Jeremie Milambo (Greg Halford 51); John Martin, Anthony Wordsworth, Cameron Evans ,Shane Griffin; Junior Quitina (Max Hutchinson 75), Cian Kavanagh (Isaac Tshipamba 81).
Subs Not Used: Kyle Cook (gk), Katlego Mashigo, Jack Stafford.
Booked: Anthony Wordsworth (22).
Sent Off: Anthony Wordsworth (68).
Referee: Damien McGraith.
Extratime.com Player of the Match: Glen McAuley (Athlone Town).