St. Patrick’s Athletic steamrolled recently-crowned Premier Division champions Dundalk 5-2 on Tuesday, where an inspired display from Conan Byrne earned the midfielder two goals and two assists on a night to forget for Stephen Kenny’s Lilywhites.
Byrne scored his 10th and 11th Premier Division goal for the season respectively and turned provider where possible in a night which saw the 31-year-old form a devastating chemistry with striker Christy Fagan in the St. Pat’s attack.
Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny named a significantly weaker side to that which beat Bohemians on Sunday to clinch a third successive league title, and it showed from the offset. Christy Fagan gave Liam Buckley’s side the lead after just 20 minutes when Byrne, positioned on the right wing, took the ball to the bye-line before crossing at the last.
Fagan continued his run into the box and was at the end of Byrne’s cross to rifle a neat finish low into the middle of the goal to steal the lead. It was 2-0 not long after, six minutes to be exact when Byrne registered his first of the night.
He peeled away behind the last strand of Dundalk’s defensive line and receiving the ball five yards out from goal, slotted the ball firmly into Gary Rogers’ bottom right corner with his weaker boot to double the lead.
The scoreboard read a surprising 3-0 ten minutes later when Fagan returned the favour, setting Byrne racing behind enemy lines. Veering slightly to his right, the midfielder rolled a smart finish into the bottom corner only to see it ping off the inside of the post and into the back of the net.
An embarrassing half transcended into utter shock and horror for Kenny & Co when Byrne crossed deep at the far post where defender Ian Bermingham crashed an almighty effort into the roof of the net to make it 4-0 going into the break – the player’s third goal of this league campaign.
Dundalk looked more assured as could be following such a demolition inside the opening forty-five. Substitute Carlton Ubaezuonu, who was brought in after 18 minutes to replace the injured Shane Grimes, was brought off following a poor first half tasked with marking the unstoppable Byrne.
They even pulled a goal back after 48 minutes when Dean Shiels wrangled his way into the St. Pat’s penalty area before releasing a low effort amid red and white bodies to beat Brendan Clarke and restore some semblance of dignity to this performance in Inchicore.
They had a second on 63 minutes when 18-year-old striker Michael O’Connor latched onto the ball from a Sean Gannon cross, taking it skilfully around Brendan Clarke before slotting it over the line from a difficult acute angle, the score-line now reading 4-2.
There was major controversy with twenty minutes to go when Dean Shiels, racing through on goal following an exquisite ball over the St. Pats defence of Sean Hoare and Rory Feely, was taken down from behind via a rash sliding challenge from Feely who had made up the ground.
Referee Harvey waved play on after a moment of self-doubt to the dismay of the travelling Lilywhite support and their manager on the side-line. Still suffering a two-goal deficit Dundalk fancied their shot at a late and dramatic comeback.
Kenny showed his intent to get a result from this game, introducing John Mountney in the dying stages to add some steel and speed to his young attack. But it was not to be as St. Pat’s continued to venture forward through the ever-present threat of Ian Bermingham cutting in across the left flank.
But it was the name of Jonathan Lunney that made the performance complete, scoring his first senior goal for St. Pat’s to finish the night at an exhilarating 5-2. He received the ball on the edge of the area before setting his sights on the top corner, his shot slamming past Rogers to cap a comprehensive display from the 18-year-old.
The result sees Dundalk suffer a sixth league defeat of the season - two more than Cork City - as they look ahead to next week’s next fixture against Zenit St. Petersburg after lifting the 2016 Premier Division title at Oriel Park this Friday.
St. Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ger O’Brien, Sean Hoare, Rory Feely, Ian Bermingham (Ciaran Kelly 88); Jonathan Lunney, Graham Kelly (Jamie McGrath 68); Conan Byrne, Stephen Kinsella, Sam Verdon, Christy Fagan
Subs not used: Pat Jennings (gk), Fuad Sule, Darragh Markey, Dylan McGlade, Dinny Corcoran
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Shane Grimes (Carlton Ubaezuonu 18) (Brian Gartland 46), Patrick Barrett, Alan Keane; Georgie Poynton, Robbie Benson, Dean Shiels, Keith Dalton (John Mountney 70), Ciaran O’Connor, Michael O’Connor.
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava (gk), Anton Reilly, Eric Whelan, Jake O’Connor
Bookings: Carlton Ubaezuonu (31).
Referee: Robert Harvey.
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Conan Byrne (St. Patrick’s Athletic).