Brendan Graham reporting from Richmond Park
St. Pat’s battled their way through a tough afternoon against a dogged Shamrock Rovers side with goals from Kian Corbally and Kenny Lee ensuring their place in the league final against Bohs in the coming weeks.
It was the away side who enjoyed the better start to the game having plenty of early possession and passing the ball around well in midfield as they looked to secure an early goal.
Sinclair Armstrong, playing as a lone striker for Rovers looked lively from the outset as he tried his best to catch the St. Pats rear guard out with the long ball over the top but Birch and Reilly stood tall at the back for the home side and grew into the game as the half progressed.
Cian Kavanagh, playing a similar role to Sinclair for Rovers, worked tirelessly from the start and found himself close on a number of occasions to getting in behind the defence with the home side playing some lovely counter attacking football when in possession.
Their first major chance of the game came with ten minutes on the clock following a fantastic individual run by tricky winger Ross Fay. Fay was causing serious problems on the right wing and after jinking past Callaghan turned inside and laid the ball off for Kian Corbally who shot at goal but straight into the arms of Cahill.
With the game beginning to open up and St. Pats starting to eke out chances, it was Shamrock Rovers who took the lead against the run of play through the busy Sinclair Armstrong.
Sinclair showed good control taking the ball over the top down at his feet before out muscling Chelaru and slotting the ball past Rice to give Rovers the lead against the run of play.
Chelaru pleaded with the referee that he had been fouled in the build up to the goal but the referee waved away his concerns allowing the goal to stand much to the delight of the away side.
A blow for Hyland’s side but to their credit they never allowed their head’s to drop and responded strongly after conceding early on.
If anything it was a good thing as they really upped their game for the remainder of the half showing a far greater intensity and desire for the ball as they looked to get themselves back on level terms.
Rovers were struggling to deal with the constant pressure being thrown at them and with minutes to go in the half gave Pats a lifeline by conceding a penalty.
It didn’t get any easier for Pats with Conway seeing his initial effort saved before smashing his rebound off the butt of the post with the goal at his mercy.
Just minutes into the second half, things went from bad to worse for the home side with Ross Fay shown a straight red card for a heavy challenge.
St Pat’s with a full half of football still to play could have been forgiven for starting to think it just wasn’t going to be their day but as often is the case with teams, the red card seemed to galvanise them with each of the players left on the pitch knowing and accepting how hard they would now have to work if they wanted to maintain their interest in this year’s league that little bit longer.
Although they had the luxury of an extra man on the pitch, Duff’s side continued to struggle with the industrious performance that Pat’s were producing with Hyland’s side using the ball extremely well when in possession and working so hard as a team to claw their way back into the game.
The goal came on the hour mark courtesy of Kian Corbally and it was no less than the home side deserved. Corbally picked the ball up just outside the box before swotting off the challenge of Scott and slotting the ball past the keeper and get his team back on level terms.
The game really opened up after the goal with the crowd in the stand getting behind their respective teams also. Chances were exchanged at both ends before the turning point of the game on 70 minutes.
Following a scramble in the Pat’s box and a succession of set pieces from Rovers, Morgan Rice at full stretch pulled off an incredible save to deny the Hoops their second goal of the day. Just seconds later and almost straight from Rice’s restart, St. Pats striker Kenny Lee was wheeling away in celebration after putting his side 2-1 to the good.
Lee ran onto a long ball over the top and with Cahill rushing out to meet him dinked the ball over the keeper just in time to leave the ball rolling into the empty net to the delight of Lee and his team mates.
Shamrock Rovers pushed hard in the closing stages in search of an equaliser but the Saints closed the game out well and a second half performance enriched with desire, teamwork and character ensured that they will now be the team who advance to play Bohemians in the league final.