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Saints have final vision

IRELAND didn't even have its own TV channel the last time St Patrick's Athletic won the FAI Cup, but finally, finally, there are signs that the 51-year hoodoo hanging over the club could be ending.

The season will now be extended by at least a week after Pat's qualified for the Cup final in 28 days' time thanks to a 3-0 semi-final win away to Dundalk. So even if that means an added financial burden in terms of player wages and bonuses, no one at the Inchicore club will be moaning today.

It was not the best of performances at Oriel Park yesterday in front of a gate of 2,025, but all that counts is that Pat's are in the final at Lansdowne Road on November 4.

"We know all about the 51 years so hopefully that hoodoo is almost gone now," said Pat's midfielder Greg Bolger, who played a major role in the win after coming off the bench as a first-half sub for the injured James Chambers, the Wexford lad going on to score the Saints' second goal.

"We're all delighted to be in the final. As players we try not to think too much about the club's record in the Cup over the years, though it is amazing that a club like Pat's can go for over 50 years without winning it.

"This is a new group of players so we can't change what went on in the past. If you think of all the great players who have come through St Pat's and not won it, it's scary. I had Martin Russell as my manager at UCD, he's been a big inspiration to me, he had years as a player at Pat's and I don't think he even played in a Cup final so for me to get to a final this early in my career and it is brilliant. It's not just about getting to the final, hopefully we can push on and win it."

The scoreline looked good for the away side but it probably flattered the Saints, who had taken the lead on 20 minutes when Christopher Forrester got on the end of Ger O'Brien's corner and set up a chance for Kenny Browne, the defender scoring his first goal of the season.

The rest of the game really hinged on an incident six minutes later when Barry Conlon, the much-travelled striker who was making only his second start for Dundalk, missed the target when presented with a free header from Jonathan Mountney's free kick.

That was costly as Pat's doubled their lead seven minutes into the second half when Bolger headed the ball home from Sean O'Connor's cross, and then the in-form O'Connor scored on 85 minutes to complete the rout.

"I think we stopped playing once we scored and let them back into it, even early in the second half they were on top but I got the second goal and that killed off the game," said former Dundalk man Bolger.

"Our performance wasn't the best but a Cup semi-final isn't about getting a good performance, it's about reaching the final and we've done that," he added.

For Dundalk this was their eighth defeat in nine games and their attention now turns to the league and their bid to avoid relegation.

"I didn't think it was a 3-0 game but Pat's won and we have to congratulate them, they have some fantastic players in their squad and this could be their year," said Dundalk boss Darius Kearns, who will spend the coming weeks preparing for a promotion/relegation playoff. "I'm happy with the players' efforts, they played right until the end and we had some great performances. Jonathan Mountney got man of the match and Derek Foran was outstanding.

"We gave away soft goals at crucial times. If Barry Conlon had scored his header when it was 1-0 to them it would have been a different game," added Kearns. "It would have been great to get to the final as we have a lot of young players and a Cup final appearance would have been a great start to their careers but this will stand to them and they will learn from the experience."