Shamrock Rovers succumbed to their first loss of the season at Richmond Park on Good Friday, losing by the remarkable scoreline of 5-1 to city rivals St Patrick’s Athletic who continued their unbeaten start. The Saints defied the odds to humble the champions, beating them at home for the first time since 2009.
Either side could have drawn first blood after a barrage of chances in a tense and frantic opening. Roves almost broke the deadlock after just two minutes; Gary Twigg evaded his marker at the back post but his header from Billy Dennehy’s free kick went narrowly over.
However, it was the hosts who stuck first only a minute later, opening the scoring in some style. Chris Forrester controlled James Chambers’ long ball wide on the right hand side before turning goalwards and unleashing a sweet left-footed strike that soared into the top left corner. There was no letting up by either side as the half continued at a phenomenal pace.
Twigg came close to levelling in the 12th minute but saw his improvised effort come of the crossbar after the Pat’s defenders failed to clear Dennehy’s corner. A well-played advantage by referee Anthony Buttimer almost led to Pat’s scoring a spectacular second. After a dive by Killian Brennan for which he was to later be booked, Greg Bolger spotted Rovers keeper Oscar Jansson off his line but his shot from just inside the opposition half trickled wide.
The home side did make it two in the game’s 26th minute with a great team goal. Forrester brought the ball into the Rovers penalty area after a fantastic cross-field pass by Christy Fagan. Rather than go for goal himself, the winger played the ball across the goal to John Russell who couldn’t miss. However, the scoring was far from over.
If Forrester’s first strike was good then his second, five minutes from the end of the half, was special. Fagan beat the offside trap to latch onto Bolger’s long ball before offloading to Forrester whose chip was as delicate as it was sublime. The goal was as fine a finish as you will see at any game anywhere in the world this weekend and plunged Rovers into the unfamiliar territory of being 3-0 down.
The visitors did manage to pull one back with the last action of the first half after a period of sustained pressure. A series of corners from Dennehy culminated in a header from Ken Oman that gave the visitors hope.
The second half began with Pat’s on top, the first chance coming on 50 minutes. Bolger surged forward but shot wide after a neat exchange with his midfield partner John Russell. The favour was repaid four minutes later, Bolger laying the ball off to Russell who struck over the bar. Gary Twigg did likewise at the opposite end soon after, having been put through by Brennan.
Rovers continued to look for a second that would have led to a nervy end, bringing on former Pat’s attacker Daryl Kavanagh, but the game lacked any clear cut chances until the 70th minute when Christy Fagan made the game safe.
Russell played in the striker who found himself one-on-one with the keeper. Jansson managed to make the angle hard for Fagan as he was rounded but, given the night that was in it, there was only ever going to be one outcome. Having opened his account, Fagan nearly turned provider after 74 minutes but his fizzing ball across the goalmouth lacked a red shirt to turn it in.
The icing on the cake for the home side arrived four minutes from time, Jake Kelly’s looping ball left Jansson in no man’s land and might have gone in on its own. However, Fagan was on hand to make sure and nod the ball into the empty net. The goal was the feather in the cap for Pat’s and was a fitting end to a sensational game.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ger O’Brien, Kenny Browne, Conor Kenna, Ian Bermingham; Chris Forrester (Dean Kelly, 68), James Chambers (Mark Rossiter, 88), Greg Bolger, John Russell, Jake Kelly; Christy Fagan (Seán O’Connor, 86).
Subs not used: Barry Murphy, Jake Carroll, Pat Flynn, Stephen O’Flynn.
Yellow Cards: Forrester (47), Chambers (72), Bermingham (90).
Shamrock Rovers: Oscar Jansson; Seán Gannon, Craig Sives, Ken Oman, Killian Brennan (Conor Powell, 84); Chris Turner (Daryl Kavanagh, 59), Ronan Finn, Stephen Rice, Aaron Greene (Gary McCabe, 46), Billy Dennehy; Gary Twigg.
Subs not used: Rayaad Piestre, Graham Gartland, Conor McCormack, Gary O’Neill.
Yellow Cards: K Brennan (18).
Referee: Anthony Buttimer.
Attendance: 3,250 (estimate).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Chris Forrester (St Pats).