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St Pat's benefit from controversial penalty to edge Shamrock Rovers

Referee Dave McKeon’s name was on the lips of both sets of supporters.

Luke Byrne of Shamrock Rovers is shown a red card.
Luke Byrne of Shamrock Rovers is shown a red card.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

St Patrick’s Athletic 1

Shamrock Rovers 0

IT’S NEVER A good sign when supporters file out of a ground with the referee’s name on their lips but then, this was a game which swung on a penalty and a red card.

Not that St Pat’s will mind. Killian Brennan’s winner takes them back to within four points of the top and ensures that it is their city rivals’ record rather than their own that is blotted by two defeats in their last three.

Pat’s have been no stranger to penalty controversies against them already this season, and though these moments are said to balance in the long run, even the most blinkered fan will admit that they got a generous slice of good fortune in the final minute of the first half.

Luke Byrne came up on the outside of Conan Byrne and as he reached across his namesake to poke the ball clear, the Pat’s man went to ground. From his position on the Camac terrace Pat’s injured skipper Ger O’Brien saw clearly enough to tweet that it was “never a pen” but Dave McKeon, a few yards behind the play, saw enough contact to point to the spot.

The decision to show Byrne a straight red for what was neither a professional foul nor a clear goalscoring opportunity — Rovers appeared to have cover — only added to the Hoops’ sense of injustice. When the protests settled Brennan did as was expected, opting for power over placement to beat Barry Murphy.

Unsurprisingly it was the major talking point in a first half that largely failed to spark, even with two former Irish internationals on the pitch.

At one point the advertised battle between Keith Fahey and Stephen McPhail threatened to get personal. The Hoops man flew into their first challenge with gusto, and then was booked a few minutes later for a high boot that forced Greg Bolger to be substituted with a suspected fractured jaw.

The booking didn’t lessen McPhail’s enthusiasm though and he might consider himself lucky not to have picked up a second booking before the break.

Rovers started the brighter of the two sides but while it was still 11-a-side, the best chances fell to Pat’s. Fahey clipped the top of the bar in the 32nd minute when he tried his luck with a free from the left and then James Chambers, on for Bolger, squandered a glorious chance 60 seconds later when Chris Forrester squared to him 12 yards out.

With Sean O’Connor deputising at left-full in the second half, Rovers were limited and their best chance came 20 minutes from time when Gary McCabe stung Brendan Clarke’s palms but no more.

Pat’s could easily have been two up at that stage but for the smart interventions of Murphy who denied Byrne twice in the space of 60 seconds not long after the hour mark, low to his left and then to his right in quick succession.

Injuries to Brennan and Forrester late on cast a slight shadow on the evening for Pat’s while O’Connor limped off for Rovers as well with what looked to be a hamstring injury.

Any bad news can wait until tomorrow though. For the champions, tonight is one to enjoy.

ST PAT’S: Clarke, McCormack, Browne, Hoare, Bermingham, Byrne, Bolger (Chambers 16), Fahey (c), Brennan (Lynch 82), Forrester (Kavanagh 90), Fagan.

Substitutes: Jennings, Foran, Lynch, Chambers, Fitzgerald, Kavanagh, Quigley.

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Murphy, Madden, Kenna (c), McGuinness, Byrne, McCabe (Robinson 73), Brennan, McPhail, O’Connor (Cornwall 84), Finn (Waters 66), Kilduff.

Substitutes: Hyland, Cornwall, Bayly, Robinson, Waters, Sheppard, Zayed.

Referee: David McKeon.

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