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Dublin: 8 °C Monday 14 October, 2019

Doughty Pat's open new season with battling win over Cork City

The Saints made good on their early season promise in an opening win against last season’s runners-up.

Kevin Toner wins a header above Karl Sheppard.
Kevin Toner wins a header above Karl Sheppard.
Image: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

St Patrick’s Athletic 1

Cork City 0

Gavin Cooney reports from Richmond Park 

SAINT PATRICK’S ATHLETIC proved they have the flinty resolve to supplement their technical quality with a 1-0 home win over Cork City on the opening night of the new Airtricity League season.

The decisive goal of a rollicking game came on the half-hour mark: Mikey Drennan converting a penalty on the half-hour mark to give Pat’s an impressive three points, in so doing portending their muscling in on the league’s long-established duopoly. 

The first half-hour was the uncoiling of months of off-season energy: it was physical, frenetic and occasionally splenetic: Conor Clifford was booked for a hefty challenge that left Kevin O’Connor writhing in agony. 

Amid the ragged opening quarter, it was Cork who wrung out the best chances. 

New signing James Tilley should have done better than plant a free header wide of Brendan Clarke’s left-hand post, while the Pat’s ‘keeper then reacted well to bat away at point-blank range a corner that deflected off Rhys McCabe’s head. 

Clarke made an even better save at the midway point of the first-half. Daire O’Connor – an electric, jinking presence on the right-wing for Cork all night -  weaved his way to the end-line, dinked a ball into the penalty area and onto the head of Gary Buckley. 

Buckley’s header was spiralling away from Burke, but for the goalkeeper to claw it away with an outstretched right-hand. 

Pat’s early tactics involved sending the ball into the channels for Mikey Drennan to chase, but they took the lead with build-up more considered: some neat play on the right-wing involving Chris Forrester led to David Webster whipping a low cross into the box. Conor Clifford was kicked by Conor McCormack as he started for the ball, with Drennan sending Mark McNulty the wrong way from the spot.

St Patrick's Athletic supporters celebrate Pat's fans celebrate Mikey Drennan's decisive goal. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

Cork responded well: a mazy foray into the penalty area by Daire O’Connor was met by Sheppard, who could only flick the ball into the side-netting.  

O’Connor was Cork’s outstanding player, and each of his contributions led to the onlooking Pat Dolan to stand up and turn toward the press box, nonchalantly affecting the words ‘The Irish Messi’.

Sitting behind Dolan was Irish boss Mick McCarthy, who, if he was impressed by O’Connor, didn’t verbalise so in the direction of The42

Cork created little in the early stages of the second-half, with Jamie Lennon – the conscience of the Pat’s midfield – breaking up play effectively.

With Karl Sheppard cutting an increasingly lonely figure up front, John Caulfield responded by sending on Graham Cummins for the underwhelming Tilley, with Daire O’Connor moved to a No.10 position at the tip of a midfield diamond. 

O’Connor remained involved: a dribble and drive from the edge of the penalty area stung Clarke’s gloves, and he later skied a volley from inside the penalty area. 

Caulfield further gambled by swapping defensive midfielder McCormack for new signing Liam Nash, who made an immediate impact by forcing a corner after tidy build-up with Daire O’Connor which resulted in Sheppard driving a shot narrowly wide of Clarke’s post. 

Minutes later, Conor McCarthy’s dipping volley was acrobatically tipped over by Clarke. 

By this stage, Pat’s had been sucked very deep, but they defended stoutly with Toner and Desmond outstanding. 

Cork, however, created little and it was Pat’s who could have doubled their lead late on, with a long-range Madden effort forcing MacNulty into pushing the ball around his left-hand post. 

There were anguished roars around Richmond Park when the referee added six minutes injury time, but a series of McNulty punts into the penalty area were consistently cleared by Toner. 

Ultimately Cork lacked the kind of patience and control in midfield that Clifford and Rhys McCabe offered Pat’s and  missed the influence of Gearoid Morrissey, who had been named to start but dropped out of the matchday squad before kick-off. 

While Cork attacked frantically late on, Pat’s held firm through the defiance of Toner and Desmond, with Conor Clifford and Jamie Lennon quenching all fires in midfield.

Chris Forrester, meanwhile, flitted around the edges of the game without ever being overly-involved and made way on the 70-minute mark having admitted in the lead-up that he is slightly lacking match sharpness. 

This was a night, however, for Pat’s doughtier talents. 

The winds of change are blowing from Dublin. 

ST PAT’S (3-5-2): Brendan Clarke; Simon Madden; David Webster, Kevin Toner, Lee Desmond; Ian Bermingham (Cian Coleman 94′); Jamie Lennon, Conor Clifford, Rhys McCabe; Chris Forrester (Gary Shaw 71′), Mikey Drennan (Brandon Miele 85′)

CORK CITY: Mark McNulty; Conor McCarthy, Dan Casey, Sean MacLoughlin, Shane Griffin; Conor McCormack (Liam Nash 79′), Gary Buckley, Kevin O’Connor (Garry Comerford 74′); Daire O’Connor, Karl Sheppard, James Tilley (Graham Cummins 64) 

 Referee: Neil Doyle 

Attendance: 3,479

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Gavin Cooney

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