Andrew Dempsey reports from Richmond Park
St Patrick’s Athletic reached the Leinster Senior Cup Final as they finally found their way past a dogged Dundalk side at Richmond Park after extra time.
Former Aston Villa central defender Kevin Toner sealed the Saints' passage into the final with an expertly taken free-kick in the 105th minute at the Emmet Road venue.
The first half of the initial ninety began as a drab enough spectacle with both sides looking comfortable in defence while also looking nowhere near threatening.
The first shot on goal came after 20 minutes through Dundalk striker Pablo Calvacante, who was unable to trouble Barry Murphy in the Saints goal as his effort went well wide.
Moments later, Dundalk could have easily taken the lead if it wasn’t for the outstretched hand of Barry Murphy in the Saints goal as he palmed away Patrick McEleney’s superb set-piece effort.
On the half-hour mark, Pats had their first shot on target as the lively and influential Dean Clarke saw his 35-yard rasper sting the hands of Gabriel Sava in the Dundalk goal.
As the first half drew to a feeble close, the Inchicore outfit could have grabbed a lead through James Doona, but Sava was able to tip over a decent effort by the former Shamrock Rovers youngster.
While the opening 45 wasn’t anything to write home about, the second half certainly delivered in terms of bite and determination from the hosts.
With Dean Clarke and Doona running Dundalk right-back Mark Traynor ragged, the Athletic could have easily seen themselves go in front had it not been for some misfortune after a great strike by Doona.
Doona’s curling strike just evaded the top corner of Sava’s goal, and Stephen Kenny and co breathed a huge sigh of collective relief.
Minutes later, the County Louth side went close as Dylan Hand’s looping header went agonisingly over Barry Murphy’s goal from another menacing McEleney free-kick.
With their tails up, Dundalk almost grabbed a goal on the counter, but Saints captain Lee Desmond intervened with a superbly timed challenge to deny the electric Calvacante.
Following that near miss, the game reconvened to the pattern that dominated the first half as neither team had that cutting edge up top to slice their way through each other’s defence.
In what was the last real opening of the second-half from play, the ever-impressive McEleney almost grabbed a 78th minute winner but his low effort sneaked wide of Murphy’s goal after an incisive break which came from a St Patrick’s Athletic corner kick.
As the game petered out, Achille Campion went close for the hosts with a header and low strike, but it was Doona who went closest late on as his low free-kick just crept wide of the Dundalk goal.
The game burst to life as extra time began. Darragh Markey found Ryan Brennan with a shot-turned-pass before the lively Clarke wet agonisingly close minutes after with a thundering shot that crashed off the post.
The Saints went even closer moments later, but Dylan Hand was on hand to block on the line as the Emmett Road side tried to barrel their way home with some fantastic play on the left-hand side.
The goal finally arrived soon afterwards through a fantastically-taken Toner free-kick.
After being pulled down on the edge of the Dundalk penalty area, Doona, who was unlucky not to get a goal himself, left the ball to Toner who readied himself for a set-piece effort.
Smartly setting himself up, the 22-year-old beat Sava at his near post to the delight of the crowd as Pats took a well-earned lead before the second half of extra-time commenced.
Keen to hold onto their lead, Pats held the ball impressively well as the Lilywhites began to run out of ideas at the death.
All in all, it was a deserved win for the Saints who looked the better side as the game progressed in the latter stages.
They will now face Dublin rivals Shelbourne in the final in the coming weeks after the Reds got past Bluebell United in their semi-final.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Barry Murphy; Kevin Toner, Lee Desmond, Michael Leahy; Michael Barker, Graham Kelly (Darragh Markey, 65), Jamie Lennon, Ryan Brennan, Dean Clarke; Ian Turner (Achille Campion, 62), James Doona (Jake Keegan, 112).
Subs not used: Brendan Clarke (gk), Conan Byrne, Simon Madden.
Booked: Kevin Toner (88).
Dundalk: Gabriel Sava; Mark Traynor (Jordan McGuire, 71), Karl Fitzsimons, Dylan Hand, Stephen Folan; Jake O’Connor, Patrick McEleney, George Poynton (Jack O’Keefe, 106), John Mountney; Georgie Kelly, Pablo Calvacante (Nedas Maciulatitis, 73).
Subs not used: Ross Treacy (gk), Lido Lotefa, Aaron McNally, David White.
Booked: George Poynton (89), TBC (98).
Referee: Alan Patchell.
Attendance: 750 (Estimate).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Kevin Toner (St Patrick’s Athletic).