St. Patrick’s Athletic retained their EA Sports Cup crown with a hard fought 4-1 victory over Limerick in Market’s Field on Saturday afternoon. The hosts had led at the break through Lee-J Lynch, only for a dominant second-half to reap the rewards for Liam Buckley’s outfit.
Christy Fagan, Conan Byrne, Jamie McGrath and Graham Kelly were on hand to give the Saints the first national silverware of the season.
The hosts were clearly under instruction from Martin Russell to press St. Patrick’s Athletic, and it reaped rewards, particularly in the opening quarter of the tie. Lynch had the first opening in the 6th minute, but mishit his volley wide.
The pressing on the Dublin outfit led to another opening. Graham Kelly was disposed by Aaron Greene, who fed Chris Mulhall who teed up Paul O’Conor. The ex-UCD man bobbled his effort well wide of Conor O’Malley’s goal.
Byrne had his sides’ first effort, he curled a long-range shot that was expertly pushed over by Hall. The resultant corner was recycled and eventually found the head of Fagan, who brought another excellent save from the Bermudian.
The visitors struck the front when a routine throw-in set Lynch free. He unleashed a rasping strike from which O’Malley has little chance of stopping.
Billy Dennehy nicked the post with a bizarre header at the back post, but the ball trickled wide of the goal.
Despite their initial opening performance, St. Pats finished the half the stronger, though Hall was underemployed in the Limerick goal.
Dennehy had the first attempt of the second-half, he sent a low free-kick towards Hall, who pushed the ball clear of the danger area. The Saints began the second half with much more fluency that the first.
But in the 52th minute, Limerick could have doubled their lead. Lynch setting Mulhall clear, only for the onrushing O’Malley to thwart him. A miss that would haunt his side.
Conan Byrne had claims for a penalty denied when Hall reached for a loose ball. The midfielder was booked for diving minutes later, as Robbie Williams appeared to trip the winger. Byrne was certain of the foul, but referee Rob Rogers saw it differently.
Sean Russell put the ball on the head of Stephen Kenny, but the winger headed sharply into the ground, only for the ball to bounce over the bar. What a crucial miss.
In the 65th minute, Billy Dennehy crossed for Fagan who tapped home. The Saints deserved their equaliser. Dennehy and 19-year-old Paudie O’Connor were cautioned for a scramble for the ball in the aftermath.
Kelly was replaced by Shane Tracy, have sustained an injury shortly before the goal. Paul O’Conor was switched to right back, with Tracy joining into the midfield.
Robbie Williams deflected a driven shot which Hall instinctively saved, Limerick living on the edge throughout the second half.
Conan Byrne punished the slack defending, to give his side the lead. Fagan flicked on an Ian Bermingham cross, which Byrne finished with ease. The cup holders taking a firm hold of the cup with half-dozen minutes remaining.
The lead was doubled by Jamie McGrath. He dinked the ball over Hall, when Byrne set him free down the right hand side.
In stoppage time, the lead was extended further when Graham Kelly raced past Freddy Hall, who was well outside his area and easily slot the ball in to the bottom corner.
The Saints were deserving winners after a dominant second half, where Limerick had little answer for the onslaught. Martin Russell will need to strengthen his squad to see his side flourish in the Premier Division next season.
Limerick: Freddy Hall; Shaun Kelly (Shane Tracy 65), Paudie O’Connor, Robbie Williams, Sean Russell; Paul O’Conor, Lee-J Lynch, Shane Duggan, Stephen Kenny (Garbhan Coughlan 80), Aaron Greene, Chris Mulhall (John O’Flynn 71).
Subs not Used: Tommy Holland (gk), Tony Whitehead, Ross Mann, Sean McSweeney.
Booked: Greene (53), O’Connor (65)
St. Patrick’s Athletic: Conor O’Malley; Ger O’Brien, Seán Hoare, Michael Barker, Ian Bermingham ©; Graham Kelly, Conan Byrne, Billy Dennehy (Mark Timlin 89), Christy Fagan (Dinny Corcoran 86)
Subs not Used: Brendan Clarke (gk), Rory Feely, Sam Verdon, Stephen Kinsella, Jonathan Lunney
Booked: Byrne (57),Dennehy (65), Kelly (89)
Attendance: 4,200 (estimate)
Referee: Robert Rogers
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Conan Byrne (St. Patrick’s Athletic)