Saint Patrick’s Athletic maintained their hopes of winning the Airtricity League Premier Division with a comfortable win over Dundalk in Oriel Park on Friday night.
An opportunist strike from Seán O’Connor in the first half and a bit of individual magic from the former Limerick midfielder in the second half was enough to earn Pete Mahon’s side the three points.
Dundalk never got into the game and the away side always looked like the team most likely to claim the points as they went close to opening the scoring on six minutes when Seán O’Connor’s corner found the head of Evan McMillan but Dundalk managed to scramble his goalbound effort out and clear the danger.
Derek Pender was next to go close for the Saints as his 35 yard volley went just wide of Peter Cherrie’s goal, but the Saints only had to wait another five minutes for the opening goal as Seán O’Connor produced a moment of magic.
A long ball forward from the Saints appeared to be a harmless threat to the Dundalk goal, but Peter Cherrie’s clearance managed to only go as far as O’Connor and the midfielder’s first time strike from all of 40 yards out looped over the despairing Cherrie and into the empty net to give the Saints the lead.
What happened in the aftermath of the goal was to ruin any chance Dundalk had of making a comeback as Mark Quigley first threw the ball away before the game restarted to receive a yellow card, before then receiving an immediate second yellow for dissent to referee Alan Kelly.
Reduced to 10 men, Dundalk struggled and failed to get a shot on target for the whole of the first half. Pats could have gone further ahead on 16 minutes, Conor Kenna heading Seán O’Connor’s corner just wide.
Dundalk skipper Simon Madden tried to inspire his side to get back in the game; his run and cross into the box looping over Derek Pender, but when the ball was fed back from Ross Gaynor to the onrushing Keith Ward on the edge of the box, the midfielder failed to connect with the ball.
The Saints had further chances before the break to extend their lead, but they were guilty of not being ruthless with their finishing in front of goal. On 32 minutes, Peter Cherrie tipped Paul Crowley’s header from a great Seán O’Connor cross over the bar, while three minutes later, Daryl Kavanagh was guilty of a poor miss when put through on goal by Ian Daly, but his weak shot on goal struck the post and dribbled wide.
The final chance of the game fell to the ever impressive Seán O’Connor, Daryl Kavanagh’s crossfield cross to Danny North was nodded across goal, but the midfielder failed to keep his cross down and saw his shot go high over Cherrie’s crossbar.
The second half continued in the same fashion and Pats soon found themselves two goals up thanks to another bit of magic from Seán O’Connor. After a break forward and cross into the box by Daryl Kavanagh was well cleared by Cian Byrne, the ball was worked back to O’Connor on the right who stepped infield and past Nathan Murphy to hammer a shot into the top corner to beat Cherrie in the Dundalk goal.
Dundalk’s sole goalscoring chance of the game came just moments later as Keith Ward’s bursting run forward found Jason Byrne in the penalty area, but the striker failed to find the net as Gary Rogers rushed off his line to block the strikers shot.
The away side controlled the remaining 30 minutes of the game, and had further chances to add to their goal tally. Paul Crowley had the best of the chances for Pats, Danny North’s crossfield pass found Daryl Kavanagh, but after a great knock down by the Pats forward, Crowley could only manage to shoot weakly at Peter Cherrie.
Shane McFaul tested Cherrie again in the 89th minute, but his well struck shot was straight at the Dundalk keeper. The Saints however saw out the final few minutes without any difficulty to secure the points to keep their and manager Pete Mahon’s hopes for the league title alive
Dundalk: Peter Cherrie; Simon Madden (c), Cian Byrne, Carl McHugh, Nathan Murphy (Conor McDonald 74); Johnny Breen, Keith Ward, Greg Bolger, Ross Gaynor (Stephen McDonnell 65); Mark Quigley, Jason Byrne (Philip Duffy 86).
Subs Not Used: Paul Murphy (Gk), Chris Reilly, Glen Trainor.
Bookings: Quigley (14), J Byrne (27), Ward (53).
Sent Off: Quigley (14).
St Patrick's Athletic: Gary Rogers; Derek Pender, Evan McMillan, Conor Kenna (c), Brian Shortall (Jake Carroll 91); Seán O’Connor (Anto Murphy 84), Shane McFaul, Paul Crowley, Daryl Kavanagh (Derek Doyle 73); Ian Daly, Danny North.
Subs Not Used: Chris Bennion (Gk), Shane Guthrie, Stephen Bradley, John O’Connor.
Bookings: North (39), Crowley (46), S O'Connor (55).
Referee: Alan Kelly.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Seán O’Connor (St Pats Ath).