Homepage image courtesy of John Doyle
Sligo Rovers claimed the Airtricity Premier Division title after defeating St. Patrick’s Athletic 3-2 at The Showgrounds on Saturday evening. Raffaele Cretaro gave Rovers the lead on 21 minutes, and doubled their advantage just two minutes later.
St. Patrick’s Athletic weren’t long finding their way back into the game, pulling two goals back through Christy Fagan and Chris Forrester before an 89th minute penalty from Mark Quigley gave Sligo the win, and the 2012 title.
Ian Baraclough was forced to make one change to the side that drew 0-0 with Cork in Turner’s Cross last weekend. Jeff Henderson replaced Seamus Conneely who pulled a hamstring in that game. Liam Buckley also made one change, bringing in Greg Bolger for the injured Jake Kelly.
Heading into this game, Sligo knew a win would make them 2012 champions, and a draw would more or less end St. Patrick’s Athletic’s chance, as their goal difference is inferior to Sligo’s.
The Bit o’Red showed their intent from very early on and dominated the early proceedings. Haitian Pascal Millien and former St. Pat’s man Mark Quigley were troubling the Saints’ defence. Quigley fired a warning shot after six minutes when he tried to curl in a ball from Pascal Millien but it was well wide.
The home supporters sprung to their feet on the 21st minute. Tubbercurry man Raffaele Cretaro was one-on-one with Barry Murphy following a clever ball from Millien, which he stroked past the ‘keeper to give Rovers the advantage.
Just two minutes later The Showgrounds exploded once again. A Ross Gaynor corner was flicked on by Gavin Peers and slotted in by Raffaele Cretaro on the far post.
Following Rovers’ second, St. Pat’s turned up the dial and began to play better. First of all, Ger O’Brien’s cross was punched away by Gary Rogers and cleared by Cretaro. Shortly afterwards, Ross Gaynor completely missed the ball and Ger O’Brien was already gone. The former Bohemians fan swung it in for Chris Forrester who blazed over from close range.
Baraclough’s men looked extremely nervous as the second half began and it allowed the visitors to turn up the heat. Just eight minutes after the restart, Liam Buckley’s men found themselves back in the game. Sean O’Connor’s delightful chip into the box was netted by Christy Fagan whose finish was excellent.
That goal didn’t force Sligo to play any better and they paid little heed to the warning signal. Just minutes later, the scoreline was nearly level as a beautiful free-kick from Sean O’Connor just clipped the far post.
On 60 minutes, the equaliser came. Sean O’Connor took a short free-kick to Chris Forrester and his excellent effort beat Gary Rogers in goal, with the help of a Sligo head.
There were chances at each end from then on and it looked like it would end in a draw before a penalty was awarded to Rovers in the 89th minute. Conor Kenna was judged to have handled the ball in the box, a dubious penalty all the same. Mark Quigley stepped up and slotted home.
With just minutes left, handbags in the 94th minute led to both Danny Ventre and Sean O’Connor receiving their marching orders. There was no more time, and that was it.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Jeff Henderson (David Cawley, 54), Jason McGuinness, Gavin Peers, Ross Gaynor; Pascal Millien (John Dillon, 76), Danny Ventre, Lee Lynch, Joseph Ndo (Liam Buchanan, 85), Raffaele Cretaro; Mark Quigley.
Subs not used: Richard Brush, Martin Owens, Jake Dykes, Ryan Connolly.
Sendings Off: Ventre (90+4).
St. Patrick’s Athletic: Barry Murphy; Ger O’Brien, Kenny Browne, Conor Kenna, Ian Bermingham; Sean O’Connor, Chris Forrester (Anto Flood, 79), James Chambers (John Russell, 70), Jake Carroll, Greg Bolger (Vinny Faherty, 46); Christy Fagan.
Subs not used: Brendan Clarke, Aidan Price, Darren Meenan, Pat Flynn.
Bookings: Bolger (26), O’Connor (47), Flood (88).
Sendings Off: O’Connor (90+4).
Referee: Damien Hancock.
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Mark Quigley (Sligo Rovers).