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Benson keeps his nerve to win dramatic FAI Cup final for Saint Patrick's Athletic

Pat’s were winners on penalties after a 1-1 draw against Bohemians.
Nov 28th 2021, 7:01 PM 29,201 84

ian-bermingham-and-chris-forrester-lift-the-fai-cup Ian Bermingham lifts the cup for Pat's. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Bohemians 1

Saint Patrick’s Athletic 1

Saint Patrick’s Athletic win 4-3 on penalties 

TWO CLUBS BISECTED by the Liffey were ultimately split by the thinnest of margins and left separated by the most remote of emotions.

The Pat’s players linked arms and bounced to the tune of the drums among their supporters, the Bohs player stood slumped and bereft, diffidently applauding their faithful fans. 

A slow-burning final erupted in extra-time with goals either side of the break and was settled by spot kicks: Robbie Benson making the most of misses by Tyreke Wilson and Keith Ward to win the Cup for Saint Patrick’s Athletic. 

The atmosphere was crackling, fantastic: minutes of pre-game flares from either end left the pitch veiled by a curtain of acrid smoke as the players emerged.

robbie-benson-scores-the-winning-penalty Robbie Benson scores the winning penalty. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Today set a new record for an Aviva Stadium FAI Cup final – 37,126 beating the 2010 record by just over a thousand – and Bohs manager Keith Long found himself in the stands, serving a ban picked up during the most recent round of rancour with Shamrock Rovers.

The 90 minutes didn’t match the occasion, but as recent history has taught us, the regulation time in the FAI Cup final is a necessary prelude to the reliable chaos of extra-time. 

So it proved today, with James Talbot’s low save to his left hand side to deny Jamie Lennon the closest either side came to scoring in the first-half. Pat’s settled quicker with their curious set-up causing Bohs problems. Chris Forrester played the furthest forward in a kind of false nine when Pat’s didn’t have the ball, with Robbie Benson joining him when they did have it. 

The result was a forward line of ceaseless movement, and a terrific out-to-in run from the left by Mattie Smith was almost picked out by Sam Bone, whose pass was slightly overhit. Talbot miscued his clearance, and Ian Bermingham could only side-foot a tricky dropping ball wide of the open goal from 40 yards. 

Talbot steadied his early nerves to keep Bohs level 10 minutes from the break. Jamie Lennon surged forward, collected a neat flick from Robbie Benson and saw his shot head for the bottom corner until Talbot pushed it around the post. Lennon slid on his knees and held his head in his hands in thwarted celebration. 

chris-forrester-gestures-to-pats-fans-after-scoring-their-first-goal-in-extra-time Smoke fills the air at the Aviva Stadium. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Liam Burt was Bohs’ brightest player and his direct running caused some problems: an early through ball was prodded wide by Ross Tierney.

Georgie Kelly, meanwhile, struggled to make an impact until the first-half came to a close. Talbot’s goal kick somehow skidded all the way through to Kelly in the box but he barged his way through a couple of tackles before his pull-back was put behind by Lee Desmond. 

The tepid fare continued until the hour mark, at which point the game was briefly paused as a firework was thrown onto the pitch.

It exploded and Bohs did too: Burt pinged a lovely cross to the back post for Ali Coote, who jinked inside and saw a shot superbly blocked by a splayed Ian Bermingham. Georgie Kelly’s follow-up was jutted away by Jaros, and Kelly headed the subsequent corner over the bar. 

It was Bohs’ best moment of the match but it came at a heavy price as Kelly aggravated his pre-existing calf problem as he landed from his header. He was replaced by Promise Omochere, leaving the field gingerly and applauding the Bohs fans for likely the final time. 

The break in play moved O’Donnell to try and re-assert control of the game, dropping Forrester to the back of midfield and hooking Lennon for forward Billy King. 

In truth nobody took control of the second half, as the game stopped and started around a series of flares and injury flare-ups. Both lost a centre-half each: first Ciarán Kelly for Bohs, then Paddy Barrett for Pat’s. 

Kelly’s replacement, Rory Feely, spurned a super chance in the closing stages of normal time, unmarked but steering a header wide of the near post from a corner. 

Ultimately neither side could score and thus we saw one of the great FAI Cup final traditions: extra-time. This was the ninth final in 12 years – and six in the last seven years – not to be settled within 90 minutes. 

The first chance of extra-time fell Bohs’ way: Feely strode forward, picked out a gorgeous through ball for Tierney, who wasted his chance with a clumsy touch. 

Tiring bodies meant more space to play in extra-time and the game began to seesaw: Billy King skidded a delightful ball across the Bohs’ area that evaded everybody; Omochere curled a tame shot right at Jaros. 

Soon Bohs were left indebted to Talbot once again, as he rushed out to smother a Ronan Coughlan shot in the penalty area. 

And then, just before the first half of extra time ended, Chris Forrester decided to take matters into his own hand. 

chris-forrester-celebrates-scoring-their-first-goal-in-extra-time-with-teammates Chris Forrester celebrates his stunning goal. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Collecting the ball in his own half, Forrester jinked away from one challenge in the centre-circle, glided toward goal, shook off the attention of Omochere with a shimmy inside and then snapped the ball beyond Talbot. 

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It was the first regal intervention of what had been a largely common game. 

The whistle went, it went again, and almost instantly Bohs were level. Ross Tierney was clattered on the edge of the Pat’s area but the referee gave a corner rather than a free-kick. No matter: Rory Feely stooped to meet Keith Ward’s corner at the near post and angled a header beyond Jaros. 

This time the celebratory smoke drifted from the Bohs fans. 

In a deeply satisfying turn, the two goals were both scored with 106 minutes on the clock and into the same goal…but by different teams. 

Tierney was occasionally wasteful but his courage can never be faulted, and late on he ghosted behind the Pat’s defence to force Jaros into a spectacular save from close range. Jaros was only warming up: he acrobatically clawed away Rob Cornwall’s deflected drive from the resultant corner before Lee Desmond somehow hacked clear Feely’s header off the line. 

rory-feely-has-a-header-at-goal-cleared-off-the-line-deep-into-extra-time Rory Feely sees a last-gasp effort in extra-time cleared off the line. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Pat’s, having looked like they had won the Cup 15 months earlier, were left clinging on…but clung on they did.

Chris Forrester missed his spot kick but earned a reprieve when Tyreke Wilson dragged his wide and, when Keith Ward saw his bounce up off the crossbar, it fell to Robbie Benson to win the Cup for Saint Patrick’s Athletic. 

He obliged. 

The Bohs players slumped to the turf of the halfway line in the soak of their despair; the Pat’s players gathered in front of their delirious supporters, as the stand crackled and flashed to the last of the night’s flares.  

Bohemians: James Talbot; Andy Lyons, Rob Cornwall, Ciarán Kelly (Rory Feely, 75′), Tyreke Wilson; Keith Buckley (captain) (Conor Levingston, 105′), Dawson Devoy; Ali Coote (Stephen Mallon, 85′), Ross Tierney, Liam Burt (Keith Ward, 102′); Georgie Kelly 

Saint Patricks’s Athletic: Vitezslav Jaros; Sam Bone (Jak Hickman, 90+5′), Paddy Barrett (James Abankwah, 81′), Lee Desmond, Ian Bermingham (captain); Jamie Lennon (Billy King, 60′), Alfie Lewis (Ronan Coughlan, 96′), Mattie Smith (Jason McClelland, 75′); Darragh Burns, Chris Forrester, Robbie Benson

Referee: Rob Hennessy 

Attendance: 37,126 

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