Fenlon rejoices in five-star Bohs' latest triumph
AS the podium was constructed on the Tallaght surface on Saturday in preparation for a Bohemians' celebration, Pat Fenlon approached his delighted followers and raised one hand to make a point.
Five trophies. That's what the Dubliner has delivered in his two and a half years in charge at Phibsborough, with this Setanta Cup win completing the full set in terms of the domestic trophies for Fenlon and also his skipper Owen Heary, who picked up his 12th major honour.
"People keep writing this team off, and criticising them and knocking them and this and that, but what they've done over this period is fantastic," said Fenlon.
He's no stranger to a siege mentality and, fittingly perhaps, his team had to withstand a second half 'bombardment' to land the north-south competition. Anto Murphy's goal before the interval set the league champions on their way, but they were under pressure thereafter from a St Patrick's Athletic side who pumped any number of throw-ins, free kicks and even kick-outs into the Bohs area without ever really cutting the Gypsies open.
Their cause wasn't helped earlier in the day when they lost midfielder Dave McAllister to a bug which also gripped defender Conor Kenna, although he soldiered on. Ever the gentleman, Saints boss Pete Mahon declined to make excuses.
"I can't remember a game where we got so many crosses into the box but couldn't score," said Mahon. "We had our breakfast, midday meal, evening meal and sat around on Friday. Some of us went to Belfield (for UCD v Shamrock Rovers). We woke up in the morning and two of the lads felt unwell. It's one of those bugs and we were unlucky, but it didn't affect Conor. He played well, it's not an excuse."
It was a lively enough final. The Saints started brightly, their sparkle illustrated by a creative method of taking a throw-in from Californian winger Ryan Guy, who took a run and somersaulted before dispatching a rocket into Bohs territory, a common method back in the US. Perhaps startled, Bohs lost their concentration for a second and Vinny Faherty headed goalwards, with Barry Murphy on the stretch to tip the ball over.
However, the champions began to assert themselves, with Anto Murphy, a Bohs player who rarely makes the headlines, increasingly prominent. His accurate delivery was steered on target by Jason Byrne, forcing a top save from Gary Rogers.
The same pair combined to win the corner which produced the decisive goal in the 24th minute, with a move they had practised in a set-piece session at Dalymount on Friday. Aaron Greene dragged his man with him by making a dart from the front post towards the taker, Killian Brennan, who promptly whipped the ball in, with Murphy arriving perfectly into the vacated space to nod beyond Rogers.
The Saints continued to press, though, and returned with purpose after the resumption, almost levelling immediately, when left winger Gareth Coughlan chested down and volleyed against the bar from distance. It would have been a goal of beauty, but, as time ticked down, the Saints gained some joy from the effective policy of sending their centre-halves up for long throws. The giant Shane Guthrie was causing problems and one flick-on should have been converted by the hesitant Faherty.
Eventually, any free-kick won by the Saints within 60 yards of goal was the signal for a plethora of red shirts to advance into the Bohs area. With Barry Murphy not exactly convincing, flapping at one Exocet, there were opportunities, yet the Saints were clumsy when it came to striking.
Fenlon was pacing the sideline, imploring his forward players to make better runs and give options on the counter-attack as, naturally, there was space to exploit with Mahon's charges committed.
With the game losing its rhythm due to a number of stoppages and substitutions, the Gypsies regained a degree of composure and, ultimately, managed to get through the final quarter hour and the four minutes of injury-time without allowing the Saints to create a decent chance. They knew they were on the way to glory when pint-sized sub Raffaele Cretaro somehow managed to win a contest for a high ball with the imposing Guthrie.
"I'm surprised he's not on a midget basketball team or something," quipped the goalscorer, Murphy, afterwards, who understood the significance of where the match was won.
"I'm happy enough that we got the win, especially in Tallaght. I thought it was going to be an omen here. Pat had reminded us that we'd been here three times (league games with Shamrock Rovers) and didn't deserve to lose any of them.
"Winning a trophy in Tallaght before Shamrock Rovers... that's extra special as well."
St Patrick's Athletic: Rogers, Pender, Kenna, Guthrie, Bermingham; Guy, S Byrne, Mulcahy (Doyle 88), Coughlan (Sinnott 88); P Byrne (Williams 67), Faherty.
Bohemians: B Murphy, Heary, McGuinness, Shelley, Powell; A Murphy, (Quigley 71) Cronin, Keegan, Brennan; Byrne (Cretaro 85), Greene (Madden 45).
Referee: A Black (IFA).