Two goals in the opening ten minutes promised an evening of goals at Richmond Park on Friday night but St Patrick’s Athletic and Shelbourne will have to do it all again next week after their FAI Cup third round tie ended 1-1.
The game started at blistering pace with Pats completing two minutes of sweeping football with the opening goal. Conor McCormack had already dropped a header narrowly wide of Gregg Murray’s goal by the time Chris Forrester delivered a ball in from the left and, with Shels defender Willo McDonagh slipping at the crucial moment, it was a simple task for Christy Fagan to slot home from close range.
Such was the pace and fluidity of Pats’ football that even at that early stage you worried for the visitors’ dignity but they soon showed that they were well capable of looking out for themselves.
With Alan O’Sullivan providing a powerful presence up front, Dylan Connolly making a profound nuisance of himself on the right and Gary Dempsey offering measured promptings from central midfield, Shels were well worth their equaliser when it came after ten minutes.
Adam McDonnell hooked a ball towards O’Sullivan inside the Pats area and he showed a great first touch to drop the ball at his feet. Then, with a sharp turn, O’Sullivan made enough space to shoot low past Brendan Clarke, right in front of the delighted away support.
Shelbourne continued to work hard but as the half progressed and Conor Murphy might have got better contact on a Philip Hand free kick after 18 minutes. But as the game progressed the Saints assumed greater control.
McCormack played a more forward role than he had on Monday against Limerick, leaving Killian Brennan to patrol in deeper areas and he was beautifully played through on 15 minutes but his drag-back didn’t have the legs to reach Forrester,
Brennan shot over following an impressive surge from midfield and Fagan did well to touch the ball around McDonagh before firing similarly wide of the target. Forrester hit a low shot on target on the half hour mark and three minutes later there was the novelty of right winger Conan Byrne getting on the end of a cross from the right by McCormack, but he wasn’t quite tall enough to get good contact on the ball and his header from in front of the goal slipped wide.
Andy McDonnell managed a pop at goal on 39 minutes for the visitors but by then it was all Pats. Sadly for the home fans they appeared to have left their shooting boots at home and all too often promising situations resulted in efforts that were either high, wide, or both, of Murray’s goal.
Both teams made straight swaps at halftime with Ken Oman replacing Foran in the heart of the Saint’s’ defence while Luke Gallagher came in for McDonnell in Shels’ midfield, and it was Gallagher who was instrumental in creating the first opening of the second period.
Smart interplay with Brian Gannon on the right led to Gallagher sliding a delightful ball through for Conor Murphy. He got his shot past Clarke, but a deflection off the keeper was enough to take it left of the goal and O’Sullivan wasn’t quite able to reach the ball before it was cleared.
Just as in the game on Monday, Pats struggled to get their game going after the break but credit too to Shels who harried superbly when they didn’t have the ball and gave their hosts little time to express their creativity.
Gradually, however, Pats started to make inroads through Conan Byrne on the right and it wasn’t long before they were piling on the pressure again. Forrester couldn’t get on the end of Byrne’s centre after 56 minutes and four minutes after that a bullet cross from the winger was touched away from the in-rushing Fagan by Willo McDonagh.
Pats came closer still on 64 minutes when Forrester showed great skill to cut inside his man, though his shot was knocked wide for a corner. From that, Keith Fahey had a drive at goal that was blocked away before Sean Hoare jabbed a ball across the gaping Shels’ goalmouth with no-one there to finish.
With twenty minutes to go Pats had assumed almost total control and Byrne really should have finished from point blank range after the visitors couldn’t clear despite several attempts and Fagan drove the ball across goal.
Gallagher might have made Pats pay for their profligacy on 72 minutes when, in a rare break, he was fed by fellow sub Gareth Coughlan, but the youngster scooped his effort well over the bar from ten yards out.
Still the chances came for a now vibrant home side. Byrne’s low cross-shot was bound for the far corner until Murray, at full stretch, tipped it away, and Byrne again had a fine opportunity on 78 minutes when an attempted bicycle kick from close range was perhaps the wrong option.
As we entered the final ten minutes Pats lost some of their intensity and Shels appeared to have weathered the storm. Gregg Murray tipped a speculative lob from McCormack over his bar and Willo McDonagh put in an excellent block to keep Fagan at bay. But Murray was still called on to race from his goal as a high ball dropped behind McDonagh in added time.
The draw, while more of an achievement for Shels, was probably fair given Pats failure to take advantage of a wealth of possession and the visitor’s refusal to panic under fire.
St Patrick’s Ath: Brendan Clarke; Ger O’Brien, Derek Foran (Ken Oman 46), Sean Hoare, Ian Bermingham; Conan Byrne, Keith Fahey, Conor McCormack, Killian Brennan, Chris Forrester; Christy Fagan.
Subs not used: Rene Gilmartin (gk), Lorcan Fitzgerald, Sam Verdon, Jack Bayly, Mark Quigley, Jamie McGrath.
Bookings: Bermingham (8), Forrester (46).
Shelbourne: Gregg Murray; Brian Gannon, Willo McDonagh, Adam O’Connor, Philip Hand; Dylan Connolly, Gary Dempsey, Adam McDonnell (Luke Gallagher 46), Conor Murphy; Jordan Keegan (Gareth Coughlan 67); Alan O’Sullivan (Lee Murtagh 81),
Subs not used: Nathan Murphy (gk), Ryan Robinson, Keith Quinn, Sean Russell.
Booked: Keegan (55).
Referee: Graham Kelly
Extratime Man of the Match: Gregg Murray (Shelbourne).