Garreth O'Connor 74' -
In an amazing start to the game, Alex Williams found himself clean through for Dundalk inside the opening minute following some sloppy play in midfield from the home side but Gary Rogers spread himself well at the striker’s feet to avert the danger and deflect the ball wide for a corner kick. From the resulting corner set piece Pat’s had to endure another goal mouth scrambled before hacking the ball to safety.
Despite the shaky start Jeff Kenna’s men grew in stature as the first half progressed and it was they who saw most of the ball thereafter. However, the didn't create a great deal in terms of goal scoring opportunities and evidently missed the threat of Declan O’Brien who was ineligible to take the field against his parent club.
Pats' lack of cutting edge was exposed on 27 minutes when some great work from Bobby Ryan down the Saint's right saw him deliver a teasing ball into the centre and Ryan Guy's inadvertent knock down fell to Glenn Fitzpatrick but his powerful strike flew over from 12 yards when he really should have scored.
Pats' next opportunity resulted from a half cleared corner on 39 which fell to the feet of Fitzpatrick again but the big striker opted for finesse instead of using his laces and his under hit chip was easily gathered at chest height by Peter Cherrie in the Dundalk goal. Unfortunately for the big target man the ball kept falling to him inside the away side’s penalty box and he again fluffed his lines when Ryan expertly picked him out from the right hand side, as he opted to try and volley the cross into Damian Lynch’s path instead of shooting and the ball spun out for a goal kick, much to the Inchicore crowds dismay after 42 minutes.
Kenna’s side resumed the second half with the same sort of vigour as they ended the first and Guy was unlucky to see his header go narrowly wide from Gary Dempsey’s flicked cross on 50. Dundalk boss Sean Connor threw on the physically imposing Darren Mansaram on 57 in an attempt to get his side back in to encounter and the striker became the focal point of most attacks thereafter.
Though in truth, it did little to stem the Pats tide as Dempsey flashed a shot narrowly wide from the edge of the Lilywhite’s penalty area moments later, before the returning midfielder was replaced on 65 by former Drogheda United man Stuart Byrne.
The creative Alan Cawley followed Byrne from the substitute’s bench after 67 minutes as Kenna stepped up his search for a breakthrough. Shortly after the changes it came. However, it was created and finished by two players who had started the game rather than those who entered the proceedings at an advanced stage.
The perpetually lively Ryan Guy cut in from the left wing and his slide rule pass was collected by O’Connor who had turned and bent a twenty yard shot past Cherrie before any of Connor’s defenders could get out to close him down, a truly outstanding goal from one of the game’s stand out players. The 74th minute strike finally saw Dundalk come out of their shell and as the game approached it’s conclusion it was inevitably they who were the more adventurous but a mixture of luck and guts ensured Pat’s took their lead into injury time.
Deep into stoppage time, a Dundalk corner had the Dublin crowd holding it’s breath and despite the Thomas Heary’s best efforts, he simply couldn’t find the space he required to have a shot and the Pats fans could once again breath easy as the referee blew for the full-time whistle.
St. Pats: Rogers, Gavin, Harris (Capt), Partridge, Stevens, O’Connor, Lynch, Dempsey (Byrne ’65), Ryan, Fitzpatrick (Leech ’87), Guy Subs not used: Clarke, Cawley, Ryan,
Dundalk: Cherrie, McKinlay (Mansaram ’57), Collins, Burns, Heary (Capt), Mulvenna, Turner, Williams, McGowan, Rowe, Kelly Subs not used: Bennion, McAreavy, Corburn, Ward
Referee: Anthony Buttimer
Man of the Match: Enda Stevens, excelled in defence and attack