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Buckley hails statement of Saints' intent

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Conan Byrne, left, celebrates after scoring St Pat’s first goal with team-mate Anto Flood

Conan Byrne, left, celebrates after scoring St Pat’s first goal with team-mate Anto Flood

Conan Byrne, left, celebrates after scoring St Pat’s first goal with team-mate Anto Flood

A mild night on the banks of the Camac, but St Patrick's Athletic's celebrations were wild at the end of a gripping game at Richmond Park.

This triumph meant even more than the three points that the Dubliners pocketed as it also confirmed what a polished team Pat's can be when they are fully focused and in the groove.

Defeats to Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk were worrying, but there was sufficient bite and bark about Pat's to suggest they can mount a sustained title bid. Sligo left the capital bruised and Pat's boss Liam Buckley was content with a dynamic display.

"Overall we deserved the win," he said. "The expectation within the club is that we will be challenging. Sligo have won eight on the spin, but we feel we can be in the mix at the end of the season. There is a long way to go."

The Saints pressed Sligo high up the pitch and the Bit O'Red were put under real duress. Usually Pat's try to pass the ball with precision, but here they were keen to vex Sligo with sheer tenacity.

Buckley's charges unnerved Sligo and the visitors failed to deal with a 21st-minute Killian Brennan corner which found Kenny Browne whose header clipped the woodwork, but in a flash Conan Byrne prodded Pat's ahead.

In the centre of the park, Greg Bolger sat in front of the defence, chalked up a decent tackle count. John Russell and Brennan scampered about craving involvement, while up top, Anto Flood was similarly selfless too.

A gorgeous Flood flick manufactured space for Chris Forrester, who lashed a 42nd-minute effort wide, but Pat's still departed at the break armed with the lead. What kind of a response would Sligo, so frequently the dominant outfit, summon after the restart?

Not a great one as Pat's maintained their admirably diligent work ethic. Several chances were created by the vibrant hosts; Brennan had a volley gathered by Gary Rogers and Ian Bermingham fizzed a shot wide.

On 84 minutes Sligo substitute Iarfhlaith Davoren was red carded for a collision with Brennan. The deal was sealed when an Evan McMillan foul on Byrne allowed Brennan chip a nonchalant penalty in the 86th minute. Sligo were beaten in the league for the first time this season as Pat's made a significant statement of intent.

St Patrick's Athletic – Ryan; O'Brien, Kenna, Browne, Bermingham; Bolger; Byrne, Russell, Brennan, Forrester; Flood (Fagan, 77).

Sligo Rovers – Rogers; Keane (Peers, 69), Henderson, McMillan, Gaynor; Djilali (Millien, 58), Ventre, Cawley, Connolly (Davoren, 76); Lynch, Elding.

Ref – N Doyle (Dublin).

Irish Independent