Gorman seals Athlone return to top flight
ATHLONE TOWN 1 WATERFORD UTD 0
It ended with a pitch invasion, a title, fireworks and champagne corks popping. But for so long, this was a game which looked like veering away from Athlone.
As they prayed for their 17 years of hurt to end, they panicked. Waterford missed chance after chance. Then, at last, the final the whistle blew and Athlone Town, for the first time since 1996, were a Premier Division side again.
The decisive goal came on 26 minutes, when Philly Gorman banged in a penalty, awarded for Paddy Barrett's foul on Enda Curran. That should have settled Athlone. Instead there were nervy moments to overcome.
For starters, there was a first-half header from Gavin Kavanagh which veered narrowly wide of Craig Sexton's goal.
And then there was Paddy Barrett's curling free-kick which skimmed the upright. Later, with 14 minutes left, Rob McLarney shot narrowly wide. Four minutes later, Vinny Sullivan came even closer, banging a shot off the crossbar.
Waterford pushed four men forward to keep Athlone's full-backs from pressing on. The ploy worked. But tactics don't win games, players do. And no player had a bigger influence on last night's game than Conor McMahon. The Athlone centre-back was immense. So was Gorman. His was the penalty which will go down in Athlone history.
Athlone Town – Sexton; R Collins, A Collins, McMahon, Clarke (Byrne 53); Hughes (Sweeney 36), O'Brien (Broughall 62), Clancy, Kelly; Curran, Gorman.
Waterford – Hyland; Whittle, Kavanagh, Barrett, Mernagh; Sullivan, Ryan (McLarney 64), White, Drohan, O'Connor (Meade 59); Quilty (Chindea 72).
Ref – R Harvey (Dublin).