Having had to wait 53 years for their last FAI Cup trophy win, Saint Patrick’s Athletic fans won’t mind too much having had to wait a protracted ten days to progress passed Shelbourne in the third round of the FAI Cup. The teams convened for the second time of asking in Tolka Park for this replay but this time around there were no floodlight issues and Conan Byrne’s late first half goal was enough to gain the win for the Saints.
The match was evenly balanced throughout the match between Pat’s, who sit in third place in the Premier Division, and Shels second in the First Division. In the original tie in Inchicore, Pat’s had dominated for long spells but this time around in Tolka, Shels gave plenty for their fans to cheer on.
Johnny McDonnell had once again made significant changes to his cup team, perhaps with one eye on their vital league promotion battle. McDonnell had lost Adam McDonnell to Ipswich Town since their last game and he made five changes from that team that drew with Longford Town 0-0 early last Friday evening.
In the seventh minute either team could have gone into the lead with both goalkeepers called into early action. The first chance fell to the visitors when Byrne got by Gary Dempsey on the right and his cross from the end line gave Mark Quigley a free header. Shels ‘keeper Gregg Murray pushed out that Quigley chance to Byrne as he drifted into the box but his follow up effort was weak.
Shels immediately broke clear with Dylan Connolly driving at the heart of the Pat’s defence. With the goal opening up, his shot was saved by Clarke’s left boot with Luke Gallagher rushing the rebound. Shels caused the Saints difficulty down the wings with Sean Russell and Dylan Connolly throughout the half. Russell’s step over at the edge of the box on 19 minutes allowed the ball to run to Gallagher whose shot was blocked for a corner. Conor McCormack struggled to contain Connolly. He conceded a corner off a Connolly cross and then he went in the book for a foul on the winger.
Midway through the half, Sean Hoare’s glancing header from a Quigley cross skipped just over the bar with Quigley also shooting over minutes later.
Shels had committed a succession of fouls in the first half, collecting four yellow cards off referee Dave McKeon and it was the final card of the half that proved costly. Gallagher had taken down Killian Brennan at the edge of the area. While the Shels player claimed his innocence, he was punished by Pat’s when Brennan’s free kick was saved by Murray only to be forced home by the inrushing Byrne.
Early in the second half twice Chris Forrester took shots curling towards the top right hand corner of Murray’s goal. The first was tipped around the post for a corner while the second just cleared the cross bar. In between Shels went close to an equaliser with Connolly’s driven shot along the turf had Clarke scrambling to hang on the ball as he saved low to his right.
Ryan Robinson loitering on the edge of the area took a tentative lob after Clarke punched clear a Shels corner but it just went over the bar on the hour mark. That was as close as Shels would get in the second half with the Saints superior in the closing period.
Mark Quigley’s ball brilliantly split the Reds defence but Conan Byrne couldn’t get the ball clear of his feet. Forrester and Fahey could both have wrapped up the win for Pat’s in the closing five minutes. First Forrester’s shot was smothered by Murray who stood tall to save and then Fahey curled a free kick over the Shels wall which the goalkeeper had to dance across his line to tip behind for a corner.
The loss for Shelbourne means their soul focus now is to see if they can overhaul First Division league leaders Longford Town, who they trail by three points, in the last five league games. The reward for Liam Buckley’s men is a home FAI Cup quarter-final against Bohemians to come in mid-September.
Shelbourne: Gregg Murray; Adam O’Connor, John Sullivan, Ryan Robinson, Lee Desmond; Dylan Connolly, Gary Dempsey, Luke Gallagher, Jordan Keegan (Lee Murtagh 87), Sean Russell (Gareth Coughlan 81); Conor Murphy (Alan O’Sullivan 73).
Subs not used: Nathan Murphy (gk), Jake Donnelly, Lee Duffy, Simon Dixon
Booked: Adam O’Connor (2), Ryan Robins (23), Kenny Browne (42), Luke Gallagher (43).
St Patrick’s Ath: Brendan Clarke; Conor McCormack, Sean Hoare, Kenny Browne, Lorcan Fitzgerald; Conan Byrne (Ger O’Brien 78), Keith Fahey, Killian Brennan, Greg Bolger, Chris Forrester; Mark Quigley.
Subs not used: Pat Jennings (gk), Ken Oman, James Chambers, Sam Verdon, Jack Bayly, Christy Fagan.
Bookings: Conor McCormak (26).
Referee: Dave McKeon.
Attendance: 1,000 (estimate).
Extratime Man of the Match: Dylan Connolly (Shelbourne).