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St Pat's party like it's 1999

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St Pat's Athletic manager Liam Buckley celebrates his side's title victory. Picture: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

St Pat's Athletic manager Liam Buckley celebrates his side's title victory. Picture: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

St Pat's Athletic players celebrate their title success. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

St Pat's Athletic players celebrate their title success. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

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St Pat's Athletic manager Liam Buckley celebrates his side's title victory. Picture: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

THEY WILL HAVE to wait another few days to get the league title into their hands but after enduring a 14-year wait for the Premier Division crown to come to Inchicore, the players and fans of St Patrick's Athletic won't be doing any complaining.

St Patrick's Athletic FC are League of Ireland champions for 2013 and that's all that matters for the long-suffering supporters of the Inchicore club, as last night's 2-0 win over Sligo Rovers confirmed that Liam Buckley's side, who have clearly been the best footballing side in the league this season, are also the best when it comes to the league table.

That 2-0 win over Sligo, secured with first-half goals from Greg Bolger and Anto Flood, means that the remaining two games of the season will be party time for Pats fans.

Some leagues are ground out and scrapped for, but this title was deserved, Buckley's ploy of playing attacking football meaning that Pats won it the right way, and with time to spare.

It wasn't the smoothest road travelled - the Pats train almost came off the rails early on with a humiliating 3-0 loss to Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght Stadium, there was a poor home defeat to Dundalk soon after that, and August brought on some mild panic with draws at home to Drogheda United and Bohemians, but Buckley remained calm all along and steered his players over the line, making this a memorable win for the former Ireland international who was in charge for the last success, in 1999.

Battered

"It was a long, hard season," said midfielder Bolger, who waited until last night to score his first league goal of the season.

"Our players had been in the papers saying that us getting battered 3-0 by Shamrock Rovers earlier in the season was a turning point in our season and it was, a few home truths were told after that and we came out fighting to be the best team all year.

"We conceded fewer goals and scored more than anyone else, it was us and Sligo battling it out up there are the top. This is my first league title, I won the First Division with UCD four years ago, hopefully we can be here again next year but this is a special feeling and we will enjoy it for now," added Bolger, a key man in the Saints midfield and an adherent of the Bucko Philosophy.

"We are a footballing team, we go out to try to pass teams off the pitch, we take risks by playing a passing game. To be fair to Liam Buckley he gives is a licence to play and express ourselves, you can see that in the players he brought in, he has a great eye for a player, every one of us is comfortable on the ball," Bolger said.

"We could go out and kick it long, the way some teams in the league do. That's easy to do, you take more risks when you play football we have done that, it has paid off and we won the title. We didn't always play the football we'd like, at times we had to go to places and graft, grind out results but we did that."

The weekend had gone well for Pats, as the fact that Dundalk had dropped points away to Bohemians on Saturday night left the Saints knowing where they stood - beat Sligo and the league was theirs no matter what else happened.

But perhaps the occasion and the sense of history got to the Pats players early on as they looked nervous at times, and in the early stages Sligo were the side who looked more likely to score, Kieran Djilali and Gavin Peers giving Saints keeper Brendan Clarke reasons to keep busy.

Nerves

But on 33 minutes the nerves eased as Pats went in front. They have played so much good football this season and it was fitting that the key goal was a moment of genius and creativity, Greg Bolger getting the better of keeper Gary Rogers - a former Pats player - with a well-struck drive from outside the box.

That goal settled Pats down and they took control, with efforts from Ian Bermingham and Killian Brennan before Flood made it 2-0 three minutes from the break. John Russell did the hard work, breaking down the right and sending in a cross which Flood stuck away to claim his ninth league goal of the season.

At half time the home side were so confident that the stadium announcer got a bit carried away, playing the Champions League theme tune as well as We Are The Champions, and there was of course a chance that a Sligo revival would have seen that arrogance backfire.

But Sligo had no way back into the game, with even the added threat of sub Anthony Elding failing to provide them with a goal.

They did come close and Pats needed a goal-line clearance from Bolger on 83 minutes to keep out an effort by Elding, but that was the best Sligo had to offer and Pats avoided any slip-up to see out the game.

The trophy was not handed over, as Pats will have to wait until Friday's game at home to Derry City to see the silverware handed over to captain Conor Kenna, but having waited for 14 years, a few days won't make any difference.


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