St. Patrick’s Athletic grabbed their second Dublin Derby victory in the space of five days on Friday night at Tallaght Stadium. Billy Dennehy’s headed goal on the stroke of half-time, combined with Christy Fagan’s fourth goal in as many games, condemned Shamrock Rovers to their first defeat of the season.
Following an ineffective opening half, the derby exploded into life after the interval as a goal just before and after the break, along with a controversial reverse decision by referee Tomas Connolly to deny Rovers a penalty, saw the game play out in the raw competitive grit expected of a derby meeting between the south Dublin sides.
Both teams brought with them bolstering confidence going into the match with the side’s bragging five wins from their combined opening six Premier Division games. St. Pat’s impressed immensely with their 3-0 drumming of Bohemians on Monday night but took until the final moments of the first half to kick into life.
Rovers, following their 1-0 win over Finn Harps earlier in the week, were propelled forward by the stand-out performance of Simon Madden going forward on the right flank – the defender providing Pat Fenlon’s side’s most prominent attacking threat in the opening half.
But it was the combinations of Brandon Miele and Gary Shaw which offered the game’s opening chance. The former Longford Town forward struck a decent effort on goal from range which forced goalkeeper Brendan Clarke to scramble low and smother the ball at his near post.
Shaw would see himself booked for a perhaps unintentional follow-through with midfielder Keith Treacy before garnouring another effort on goal. The striker gathered the ball and with time and space to detatch himself from the Saints back four hammered another effort from long range. This time the ball flew firmly over the crossbar.
The Saints were happy to pass the ball amongst themselves in retaining possession for large pockets of the opening half but took the lead just before the break. Graham Kelly’s corner from the left was headed on by the high rise of Darren Dennehy for his brother Billy to head the ball beyond Barry Murphy and slip his side ahead going into the break.
The Hoops began the second half with more intention following the shock provided by Dennehy’s opener. Miele’s free-kick struck from 25 yards, on his previous record possessed the odds to rattle into the back of the net, but this time the ball fell kindly to be gathered by Clarke.
This was followed by another half-chance which saw a long-range effort deflect off the foot of Gary Shaw, catching Clarke flat-footed but ending up wide.
However it was 2-0 to the visitors minutes later as Mark Timlin’s bending cross from the right was headed with deadly precision by Christy Fagan beneath the dive of Barry Murphy.
It was the forward’s fourth goal in four games which means the 2014 PFAI Player of the Year continues to make up for the lost time of last season when the player featured in only 16 of St. Pats’ 45 competitive games in 2015, scoring just seven goals.
Provider Timlin took hold of his newly found roar of confidence following a goal versus Bohs on Monday night to drive at the Hoops defence and glance a piercing effort over Murphy’s crossbar.
Controversy spewed forth moments later as St. Pat’s almost offered Rovers a lifeline on 56 minutes after Ian Bermingham took down Simon Madden inside the box. Referee Tomas Connolly pointed to the spot for a penalty.
However after protests from the St. Patrick’s Athletic players, Connolly consulted with his assistant referee only to reverse his decision giving a kick-out to the visitors instead.
Rovers fed on this combination of anger and injustice to go at their opponents in an attempt to get back into the game with half an hour remaining.
They largely pinned Liam Buckley’s side into their own half but efforts from Shaw, Miele and a header from substitute Dean Clarke directed into the arms of Brendan Clarke failed to bring about the goal that would act as a galvanising tool to get some sort of a result from the game.
A goalmouth scramble following a corner kick was not dealt with properly later in the match which bobbled along the goal-line between the efforts of Shaw and Gavin Brennan to bundle it home. But goalkeeper Clarke rose strongest to punch the ball clear and end the danger.
An endless stream of sweeping crosses from Madden and Rovers captain Gary McCabe failed to break down a confidently resolute St. Pat’s defence in the final stages.
Another Miele free-kick tested Clarke with five minutes remaining but Liam Buckley’s Saints exited Tallaght Stadium with a win for the second year running.
Shamrock Rovers: Barry Murphy; Simon Madden, Maxime Blanchard, David O’Connor, Gavin Brennan; Michael Drennan (Trevor Clarke 77), Gary McCabe, Pat Cregg, Brandon Miele; Gary Shaw, Danny North (Dean Clarke 71).
Subs not used: Craig Hyland, David Webster, Robert Cornwall, Richard Purdy, Gareth McCaffrey
Bookings: Gary Shaw (18), Michael Drennan (40).
St. Patrick's Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ger O’Brien, Darren Dennehy, Shane McEleney, Ian Bermingham (Sean Hoare 92); Mark Timlin (Conan Byrne 74), Keith Treacy (Sam Verdon 76), Graham Kelly, David Cawley, Billy Dennehy; Christy Fagan
Subs not used: Conor O’Malley, Jason McGunniess, Dylan McGlade, Dinny Corcoran.
Bookings: Keith Treacy (15)
Referee: Tomas Connolly
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Shane McEleney (St. Patrick’s Athletic)