Athlone Town were crowned Airtricity League First Division champions after a one nil win over Waterford United at Athlone Town Stadium on Friday night.
The goal came 26 minutes in from the penalty spot from talismanic striker Philly Gorman. They may well have doubled the lead late on through Gorman and Ian Sweeney but that won't matter to them now.
It was a scrappy opening to the game. Both teams trying to get it wide quickly, with Enda Curran the only player with a sight on goal. His turn and shot saved easily by Craig Hyland.
The first 20 minutes where very flat with Ben Ryan's free kick the only other chance of note. His strike hitting the bottom of the wall as he tried a low drive.
The breakthrough came six minutes later. A long ball forward by Graham Kelly found Curran. He charged into the box before being upended by Gavin Kavanagh.
Referee Rob Harvey pointed to the spot and after much protest from the United players. Gorman stepped up to notch his 16th goal of the season and send the home fans into a state of euphoria.
United were not without their own threat in front of goal though. Some good play down the right by Conor Whittle saw him work the ball to Philip Drohan and his volley from the edge of the box went just wide of Sexton's post.
Waterford had another chance to draw level five minutes before the half. Ryan's free kick from wide on the right was flicked to the back post by a Town head and Kavanagh was given a free header. He duly headed the ball goal ward but it looped over Sexton's bar as he watched on with obvious anxiety.
Town could have doubled their lead on the half time whistle. Gorman and Curran linked up with the latter trying an audacious lob that dipped just over the cross bar from 25 yards out.
The second half, much like the first, was a slow burner with Kevin O'Connor the only one making inroads as Town switched Curran to the left, going to a more defensive 4-5-1 formation.
Waterford could have been level just before the hour mark. Paul Quilty won a free kick at the edge of the box and Paddy Barrett stepped up to take. He lined it up on the right and bent it around the Town wall. Sexton was beaten but the shot also beat the post to the dismay of the following support.
The game became flat due to substitutions and the nervous atmosphere of being minutes from promotion was evident in the midlands air.
Having been brought on just a minute earlier, Marco Chindea was eager to make an impact. It was almost a goal scoring one as he picked the ball up and ran through the Town defence. He was just about to curl the ball around Sexton and into the Athlone net but inspirational captain Collins made a vital last ditch tackle.
Athlone could have eased the pressure on themselves with 13 minutes left as fine work at the edge of the area from Gorman and Curran saw the latter break into the area. He squared the ball to substitute Sweeney and he turned on his heels before driving the ball tow but straight at Hyland.
With ten minutes left Waterford should have been level. A long ball forward from Kavanagh was nodded down by Conor Meade and from inside the six yard box, Vinny Sullivan skied his effort over the bar.
Town may well have grabbed a second late on when a Curran half volley breezed wide of Hyland's post. They had two opportunities in stoppage time with Gorman and Sweeney having efforts saved by the United keeper.
In the end though it didn't matter as the home side held on for a famous title win and Premier Division football next season.
Athlone Town: Craig Sexton; Roddy Collins Jr, Aidan Collins, Conor McMahon, Robbie Clarke (Sean Byrne 53); Mark Hughes, Graham Kelly (Ian Sweeney 36), James O'Brien (Garvan Broughall 62), Barry Clancy; Philip Gorman, Enda Curran.
Subs not used: Paul Skinner, Neil Harney, Garbhan Coughlan, Niall Lanigan.
Booked: Collins (56), Hughes (75)
Waterford United: Craig Hyland; Conor Whittle, Gavin Kavanagh, Paddy Barrett, Dylan Mernagh; Kevin O'Connor (Conor Meade 59), Ben Ryan (Rob McLarney 64), Peter White, Philip Drohan,Vinny Sullivan; Paul Quilty (Marco Chindea 72).
Subs not used: Chip Sanders, Conor Coad, Peter Higgins, Francis Rockett.
Booked: White (29), Drohan (64), Barrett (74).
Referee: Robert Harvey
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Aidan Collins (Athlone Town)None
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