St. Patrick’s Athletic chalked up their first home win of the season tonight by defeating Dundalk 2-0 in an entertaining clash at the Stadium Of Light, Richmond Park in the League of Ireland Premier Division. As a Mark Leech header and a sharp Kyle Moran finish proved the difference between the teams.
In an open, attacking and absorbing game there can be no doubt that Sean Connor’s side contributed thoroughly to the game as a spectacle but it was Pat’s deserved their win by virtue of some enterprising, bright attacking play and two masterful deliveries from talented playmaker Alan Cawley. Though it wasn’t all good news for manager Jeff Kenna as both opening goal scorer Mark Leech and midfielder Gary Dempsey were both stretchered off with suspected broken legs.
Pat’s started the brighter, eager to make amends for their dire showing at home to Galway United three weeks ago and a good free-kick from a very promising position by Alan Cawey was the closest either side came in opening exchanges.
Mark Leech then flashed a left foot volley wide of keeper’s far post and Cawley again threatened after some sumptuous skill by the returning Mark Quigley in the build up.
When the breakthrough finally came it was hardly surprising that it was the home side’s number ten Cawley was at the hub of things. An inch perfect delivery about forty yards from goal was expertly nodded home by Leech for his second of the season on 36 minutes.
Dundalk opted to play a very direct game aiming the ball long towards the dangerous Darren Mansaram at every opportunity and he could have won a penalty when upended by Enda Stevens. The Dundalk players became aggrieved by what they deemed to be a few home town decisions in the opening period, Though the referee did chose not to award Quigley what looked a certain penalty when he appeared to reach Ryan Guy’s through ball before goalkeeper Chris Bennion Neither penalty was given however and the Saints went in one nil at the break.
Jeff Kenna was understandably delighted with the performance and remarked of the game: “I though the opening 45 minutes was our best of the season”, Observing that Cawley was: “Outstanding in the first-half” and reserved special praise for returning striker Quigley, describing him as a “an exceptional player”.
Hero Cawley was himself very down-to-earth following post-game comparisons to former Pat’s midfield maestro Keith Fahey: “I don’t really want to be compared to any others players, I’m just doing my thing” and gave credit to assistant the team’s assistant manager Paul Peschisolido’s “imagination” from set pieces.
Dundalk, to their credit, began the second period with renewed vigour and pressed Pat’s deep in to their own half although The Lilywhites struggled to create any clear cut openings. Crosses from wide were hung up for on rushing players but Gary Rogers stood firm despite some heavy handed treatment.
The home side stemmed the flow and from Cawley’s corner, Captain Jason Gavin headed goalward and substitute Kyle Moran, who had replaced the stricken Leech, hooked in impressively at far post left footed against his home town club with just 12 minutes remaining.
Kenna will now feel he has gone a long way towards eradicating the opening night mauling from Galway and with three wins on the trot; not to mention three clean sheets, Pat’s now have to be recognised as serious title challengers.
Sean Connor confirmed after the game that he will be appealing his four game touch line ban (which is due to start next week) and with three points from four games his side could really do with all the help they can get.
St Patrick's Athletic: Gary Rogers; Damien Lynch, Jason Gavin (c), Dave Partridge, Enda Stevens (Jamie Harris 89); Ryan Guy, Gary Dempsey (Stuart Byrne 87), Alan Cawley, Darragh Ryan; Mark Leech (Kyle Moran 56), Mark Quigley.
Subs not used: Gints Friemanis, Glen Fitzpatrick.
Dundalk: Chris Bennion; Shaun Kelly (Simon Kelly 51), Dave Rogers, Liam Burns, Thomas Heary (c) (Tiarnan Mulvenna 90+4); Michael Daly, George O'Callaghan, Chris Turner, Harpal Singh; Darren Mansaram, Declan O'Brien (Michael McGinlay 75).
Subs not used: Mark Griffin.
Referee: Tomas Connolly.
Extratime Man of the Match: Alan Cawley (St Pats Ath) - Every inch a classic number ten with elegance, skill, vision, swagger and a sweet right boot that was the difference between the sides.