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A landslide victory saw St. Patrick's Athletic return to action to defend their Leinster Senior Cup title, beating Leinster Senior League side Tolka Rovers 7-0 at Richmond Park on Monday night.
A thrilling performance was witnessed as goals from Conan Byrne, Christy Fagan, Ian Birmingham, two from substitute Ciaran Kilduff as well as an own goal saw St. Patrick's Athletic pick up the win.
A sixth minute Conan Byrne opener ensured that Liam Buckly's men held a firm grip of the encounter from the offset. Intricate passing from James Chambers and Greg Bolger was followed by a defence-cutting pass to Chris Forrester on the left-wing, Forrester subsequently crossing low for Byrne who scored on his second attempt, with Tolka keeper Morgan Cranley saving his initial attempt.
Tolka enjoyed little of the ball from then on, as Pats dominated possession, persisting on a passing-orientated game that was centred around quick, short passes in altering zones; between defence and midfield and midfield and attack, with James Chambers setting the tempo for the encounter.
Tolka failed to make use of the chances they were afforded throughout the game however. With Pats insistent on attacking their opponents at all costs, the current FAI Cup champions left holes in their defence. Tolka however were simply not quick enough to expose them with Saint's midfielders Greg Bolger and James Chambers always ready to race back and recover.
Indeed hard-worked defensive displays from the away side’s centre back pairing Alan McDermot and Noel Murray kept the home side at bay for long stretches of the game. With Tolka pinned back to the edge of their box for much of the game, last-ditch heroics were offered time and again by the Leinster Senior League side.
On the other end of the pitch, reassured performances were given from Pats' new centre-back pairing of Lee Desmond and Jason McGuinness, with the new recruits sure to offer suitable replacements for the departed Ken Oman.
The gap in quality between the two sides was evident as the tie went on however, with the difference evident in the two side's pressing strategies in play. While Pats delivered an expected showing of pressure across all areas of the pitch, Tolka were satisfied to sit back on their halfway and let their opponents come at them, choosing to attack on the break when the occasion presented itself.
Rovers did offer some danger in attack with forwards Adam Foley and Mark Hughes benefiting from central midfielder Stephen Doran's creative inventiveness throughout the game, with the Tolka playmaker forcing Brendan Clarke to save from a 20 yard strike after half an hour.
Any chance of a Tolka comeback was extinguished when Conan Byrne was allowed oceans of space down the right channel, the winger pulling the ball back in a low driven cross to knock off the boot of poacher Christy Fagan, the striker getting his first goal of the campaign.
The lead was pushed to three when a Conan Byrne corner deflected off an unknowing Alan McDermot to put the home side 3-0 up on 61 minutes.
A fourth was added when Ian Birmingham’s 63rd minute strike from a loose clearance found the back of the Tolka net, the game now simply too easy for the reigning champions.
And a fifth was recorded on 78 minutes when substitute and new signing Ciaran Kilduff turned the ball into the Tolka goal. A long ball not dealt with properly by the Tolka defence saw the Saints number ten one-on-one with goalkeeper Morgan Cranley, with the former Shamrock Rovers striker blasting the ball low to the keeper's right.
Kilduff got his second in less than half an hour when his leap forced a header into the far corner of the Tolka net. A seventh and final goal was put on the scoreboard for Pat's when Killian Brennan's free kick from outside the Tolka box curled into the back of the net to wrap up a comprehensive rout for the Saints.
For the Leinster Senior League Side a respectable performance was not enough to see them contest with the discernible quality of their opponents. For Liam Buckley’s men however this comprehensive performance will no doubt provide a framework upon which to build on in the upcoming Airtricity League campaign. Showing no sign of rustiness or fatigue from the three month offseason, Pat's will be hungry to put their disappointing league showing last season behind them to build towards a title contention for the upcoming season.
St. Patrick's Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ger O'Brien, Jason McGuinness, Lee Desmond, Ian Birmingham; Conan Byrne, Conor McCormack (Darragh Markey 75), Greg Bolger, James Chambers (Killian Brennan 68), Chris Forrester, Christy Fagan (Ciaran Kilduff 68).
Subs not used: Conor O'Malley (gk), Kenny Browne, Jamie McGrath, Jack Bayly.
Tolka Rovers: Morgan Cranley; Niall O'Reilly, Alan McDermot (Karl Keogh 78), Noel Murray, Sean Byrne (Jonathon Meleady 59); Mark O'Neill (Luke Kelly 64), Mark Townley, Stephen Doran, Adam Crowther; Mark Hughes, Adam Foley.
Subs not used: Eamon Moylan, Ray Whelahan, Denis Moran, Craig Sexton (gk).
Referee: Michael O'Connor
Attendance: 400 (estimate)
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: James Chambers (St. Patrick's Athletic)