Date: 1 p.m. Oct. 2, 2010
Venue: Morton Stadium
Following on from last week’s successful experiment with a 4-4-2 formation that was how Sporting Fingal lined out against St. Pats but, in the opening stages of this game, the dual strike force of Glen Crowe and Gary O’Neill had little impact against a visiting defence that was missing three of its regular complement.
Noel Haverty in particular coped well at centre back in what was one of his rare first team appearances for the Inchicore club. However it was further up the pitch that Pats were exercising themselves most effectively. Dave Mulcahy and Stewart Byrne won the majority of the battles for possession in midfield and Ryan Guy used his explosive pace to torment the Fingal back line.
And it was Mulcahy who had the first shot on target in the seventh minute when he prodded a speculative effort into the arms of Darren Quigley. Moments later he delivered a more telling blow. Ryan Guy carved out the chance, twisting past Colin Hawkins on the right hand side of the penalty box and then laying the ball back into Mulcahy’s path. His strike was clean and accurate, the ball whipping across Quigley and into the far corner of the Fingal goal.
At this point the Fingal midfield looked uncomfortable, failing to connect their passes and being out manoeuvred by their more robust opponents. And on 22 minutes Pats might have extended their lead when Guy got on the end of a Williams clearance that had been charged down by Mulcahy. Finding himself in acres of space the Californian fired narrowly wide from 15 yards.
But slowly Fingal pulled themselves back into it. Crowe’s strength started to pay dividends up front as he wrestled out space for himself and he began to consistently win high balls, the scraps falling to his awakening team-mates.
On 26 minutes Conan Byrne, Glen Crowe and Ronan Finn combined well, snapping a series of crisp passes together, then, a minute later, a fine ball from Ollie Cahill found Crowe who rapidly fed Finn. His pass put O’Neill in at the back post but the shot was woefully high. The off-side flag that rendered the move void couldn’t hide the fact that Fingal were coming to life.
As the half hour mark arrived Fingal forced a succession of corners, all delivered by Conan Byrne and all aimed at the imposing figure of Shaun Maher. Some he met and some he didn’t but the pressure was building.
An effort from Finn was deflected wide and a fine cross from Byrne eluded Fingal’s front line. There was still occasional danger at the other end too and on 39 minutes Ryan Guy broke down the right and pulled a superb ball back from the byline. Unfortunately he had out- stripped his teammates and the ball rolled straight to Sean Williams who gratefully cleared.
At half time Fingal boss Liam Buckley might have been concerned that his sides pressure had failed to yield an equalising goal. The Gods do not look kindly on those who squandered their gifts and just nine minutes after the restart St Pats found themselves with a two goal lead.
Ryan Guy was again the provider, winning a challenge with Sean Williams and flicking the ball into the path of fellow striker Danny North. The former Grimsby Town striker dived between two defenders and drilled a clinical shot home from a narrow angle.
It seemed a tad unfair on the home side but they had received a lesson in how to finish off chances, a lesson they sought to put into immediate practice. They declared their intentions with a switch to 3-5-2, putting Shane McFaul on in place of Lorcan Fitzgerald as the hour mark passed.
Shortly afterwards Ronan Finn crashed a shot off the stanchion behind the Pats goal and a series of crosses from Byrne on the right flank rained in on the visitors defence. On 77 minutes Fingal finally converted one of their chances. Gary O’Neill received the ball in a central position and, from among a gathering of defenders he worked the ball to Glen Crowe. He had all the time in the world to pick his spot and tuck the ball past Rogers.
Fingal flooded forwards and a delightful Ger O’Brien ball found Finn on the right with seven minutes remaining. He looked to come inside but was dispossessed by Lynch. A minute later and the Pats rearguard was breached again. O’Neill sent in a cross from the right which Haverty headed high into the air. It was met at the six yard box by another defensive header but that only went as far as Finn, lurking at the edge of the penalty area. His shot smashed into Damien Lynch and screwed past Rogers. Fingal were level.
Keith Quinn might ever have won it for the home side when he headed a gilt edged chance over the bar in the 85th minute and with just moments left to play Gary O’Neill was inches away from converting a sublime cross from Byrne.
It ended then, two a piece, and with that the battle for European qualification goes on. No doubt both managers will claim a kind of victory from this result but while Pete Mahon’s side remain unbeaten by Fingal this season he is may yet regret these two dropped points. Liam Buckley must yet again address his team’s willingness to concede goals against sides they are well able to dominate.
Sporting Fingal: Darren Quigley; Ger O’Brien, Colin Hawkins, Shaun Maher, Lorcan Fitzgerald (Shane McFaul, 59); Conan Byrne, Ronan Finn, Sean Williams, Ollie Cahill (Keith Quinn, 78); Gary O’Neill, Glen Crowe.
Subs not used: Brendan Clarke, Brian Gannon, Alan Kirby.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Gary Rogers; Damien Lynch, Conor Kenna, Dave Mulcahy, Noel Haverty; Ryan Guy (Brian Cash, 82), David McAllister, Stewart Byrne, Gareth O’Connor (James O’Brien, 87), Derek Doyle; Danny North (Vinny Faherty, 87).
Subs not used: Chris Bennion, Sean Stewart.
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Ryan Guy.
Referee: Declan Hanney.