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Dublin: 14 °C Tuesday 4 August, 2020

Saints close in on safety with seismic win against the champions

Cork City raced into a two goal lead before St Pat’s rallied with four without reply to record a massive win which leaves them a point away from safety.

Kurtis Byrne celebrates scoring their fourth goal Kurtis Byrne celebrates adding a fourth for St Pat's. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

St Patrick’s Athletic 4

Cork City 2

Aaron Gallagher reports from Richmond Park

IT WAS A night of high emotion and intense elation in Richmond Park on Friday night, as four goals without reply capped off a comeback of seismic proportions for St Patrick’s Athletic in a 4-2 win against newly crowned league champions Cork City.

The win however, does not yet ensure the Saints’ safety in the Premier Division for next season after a dismal campaign tinkering on the brink of going down.

The victory goes a far distance to ending fears of a first ever relegation in the club’s 88-year history, however following Friday’s 2-2 draw between Limerick and Galway United, St Pat’s now require one more point next week against Derry City to secure safety.

In a game played at a frantic and heedless pace from the get-go, John Caulfield’s champions raced into an early 2-0 lead playing as their newly acquired title should suggest.

Greg Bolger leads his team out as St. Pat's players form a guard of honour Greg Bolger leads City through a guard of honour before kick-off. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Their 0-0 draw at home to Derry in midweek ensured that the title was heading back to Turner’s Cross for the first time since 2005 and goals from Ryan Delaney and Kieran Sadlier after less than 20 minutes put them into an ascendancy which looked only like building from thereon in.

Delaney scrambled home from a corner after just 12 minutes to suck the air out of what atmosphere had been building from the hosts, before Sadlier offered up a goal of the season contender to double his side’s lead just seven minutes later.

Cutting inside smartly to throw his marker one way, the ex-Sligo winger curled an audacious effort off the inside of goalkeeper Lukas Skowron’s post to make it 2-0, with City looking like making it an embarrassing night as Buckley’s side continued to fight for mere survival against the champions.

However a comeback of unprecedented nature in front of 1,600 supporters unfolded, with Dutch defender Jordi Balk igniting the fightback with a low header thanks to a deep corner aimed towards the back post.

Jordan Balk reacts to a missed chance Jordi Balk celebrates St Pat's first goal on Friday night. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Former City forward Billy Dennehy drew the scores level with a dazzling dribble which beat his marker before venturing into the box and curling a sweet strike past Alan Smith to make it 2-2.

Buckley’s side knew that a point against the champions would in isolation be a good result, it meaning they could travel to Maginn Park to face Derry City next Friday in the knowledge that a win on the final day could be enough to ensure their survival.

However talk of a solitary point was dismissed after the break as two more goals stunned City into submission on a night where the 2017 champions’ energy levels dropped significantly after the half-time break.

St Pat’s skipper Ian Bermingham reflected for months of his desire not to become the first captain in the club’s history to see St Pat’s relegated, and it was fitting that it was he who scored the decisive goal which gave them the lead with 25 minutes to go.

The left-back pounced on a loose ball inside the box having remained committed to an attacking run down the left-hand channel, before side-footing the ball past goalkeeper Smith and into the back of the net to send reverberations around Richmond Park.

Conan Byrne celebrates after the game Conan Byrne celebrates with supporters after the final whistle. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The win was capped off with 12 minutes to go as first-half introduction Kurtis Byrne nodded home a powerful header just inside the box to give his side a more comfortable two goal cushion.

Those final minutes were lived in equal measure nervousness and unbridled joy, with supporters flooding onto the pitch at the sound of the referee’s final whistle knowing their side may have done enough to keep them up.

A late leveller from Galway against Limerick meant the relegation battle continues into the final match-night next Friday — a defeat for the Tribesmen at the Markets Field would have guaranteed St Pat’s safety there and then.

Buckley’s side now travel to Maginn Park next week knowing that anything other than a defeat against Derry will guarantee their place in the top flight next season.

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Lukasz Skowron; Michael Barker, Lee Desmond, Jordi Balk, Ian Bermingham; Owen Garvan (JJ Lunney 91), Killian Brennan, Paul O’Conor (Kurtis Byrne 24); Conan Byrne (Ian Turner 79), Billy Dennehy, Christy Fagan

CORK CITY: Alan Smith; Ryan Delaney, Connor Ellis (Stephen Dooley 61), Shane Griffin, Conor McCarthy, Sean MacLoughlin, Greg Bolger, Robbie Williams (Karl Sheppard 46); Jimmy Keohane, Kieran Sadlier, Achille Campion (Gearoid Morrissey 78)

Referee: Robert Hennessey

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Aaron Gallagher

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