'He's listened to his linesman and it's very disappointing to make that call at such an important point in the game'

St Patrick’s Athletic’s Conan Byrne says referee Tomas Connolly’s decision to send Ryan Brennan off against Bohemians last night was ‘very frustrating’.

Saints boss Liam Buckley (right) and coach Ger O'Brien complain to referee Tomas Connolly after the final whistle.
Saints boss Liam Buckley (right) and coach Ger O'Brien complain to referee Tomas Connolly after the final whistle.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC were left feeling more than a little aggrieved on Friday night after a controversial refereeing decision.

Leading Bohemians 2-0 at Richmond Park thanks to Jake Keegan’s double, the Saints had Ryan Brennan sent off shortly after half-time.

Brennan was challenged in the opposing box, and, after speaking to his assistant, referee Tomas Connolly opted to hand the Pat’s midfielder a second yellow card for diving — just minutes after dishing out his first.

That saw the home side play the majority of the second period with 10 men, and the Gypsies fought back to claim a draw as substitute Kevin Devaney popped up with an equaliser in the final seconds.

While Pat’s manager Liam Buckley was up in arms after the final whistle, winger Conan Byrne gave his reaction to The42.

“The fact of the matter is, if there’s contact he doesn’t have to give a penalty but he doesn’t automatically have to give a yellow card either,” Byrne said last night. “It’s not automatically a dive if he’s not giving a penalty.

I think the linesman gave it and he’s 40 yards away from the incident when Tom is five or 10. Tom has taken his time with the decision and I think he would have been just happy to play on, but he’s listened to his linesman and it’s very disappointing to make that call at such an important point in the game.”

“It’s very frustrating,” added Byrne. “We went 2-0 up playing very well, dominating possession and creating the bulk of the chances. I think if we’d kept 11 men on the pitch we would have probably scored a few more goals.

“The sending off then came and Bohs are a good side with good players who can open you up and create chances. We fought so hard and it was a colossal effort from us to try to get the three points, but that was a killer blow at the end.”

Conan Byrne and Darragh Leahy Byrne challenges Bohs defender Darragh Leahy. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Despite the disappointment, the Saints are now unbeaten in their last five league matches at home (three wins and two draws), and the 32-year-old feels there is a more positive atmosphere around the club than 12 months ago.

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“We’ve got a settled back five that hasn’t changed all season and they have been brilliant,” he said. “Jamie Lennon in defensive midfield has really come into his own in the last few weeks and he is an exciting prospect.

“You’re going to create chances with Ryan Brennan and Darragh Markey in your team, then we’ve got Dean Clarke’s pace and Jake [Keegan] up front. We’re a good passing team and that’s the way Liam wants us to play.

We’re enjoying our football, which is the most important thing. Last year, we were dropping a lot of points at home but now we’re giving fans something to shout about and I think they’re happy with, not just the points on the board, but the way we fight with dedication and commitment.

“I think we showed that tonight even though we gave away two goals, and under the circumstances, we’ll take the positives out of the result.”

The restructuring of the Premier Division to a 10-team league this year means an increase of three rounds of fixtures (from 33 to 36), with each club playing each other four times as opposed to three.

The 2018 campaign has also been shortened by a week and the high volume of matches is causing problems for strained squads. Buckley has been vocal on the issue, and Byrne believes it will result in an inferior product if measures aren’t taken.

“There were no games for Pat’s or Bohs on Monday or Tuesday and it showed with the energy levels from both teams,” he said. “I don’t think it would have been as high quality a game if we’d both played on Monday, and what we are trying to create in this league is quality matches with quality players.

“It’s impossible to do that under this current schedule at the moment. We have to look at longer week contracts, and I know that will be difficult for clubs as it would be a financial burden on them. At the same time, if you want this league to improve it’s probably the best thing to do.”

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