Sunday 25 March 2018

Fahey can't spark Hoops as rain dampens Pat's return

St Patrick's Athletic 0 Shamrock Rovers 0

Shamrock Rovers Keith Fahey wins the aerial duel ahead of St Pat’s James Chambers at Richmond Park last night
Shamrock Rovers Keith Fahey wins the aerial duel ahead of St Pat’s James Chambers at Richmond Park last night
St Pat’s James Chambers in action against Gavin Brennan of Shamrock Rovers
Shamrock Rovers' Mikey Drennan in action against Sean Hoare of St Pat’s
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

By the end of this Dublin derby, the Inchicore natives had lost the energy to boo every Keith Fahey touch.

Heavy showers pushed this game back by 72 hours and they returned again in unwelcome doses during the second half of an encounter which lost its earlier intensity and petered towards an inevitable outcome.

The locals, some of whom were exposed to the worst of the elements, had more reason to be nervous in the dying stages as Rovers finished strongly.

But while Pat Fenlon's side remain unbeaten, a record of six draws from 12 games would suggest they have work to do in the final third. It's the reason they are eight points off Dundalk.

Fahey was always set to be the centre of attention on his first outing in Inchicore since his controversial winter switch with boos accompanying his early touches and the usual array of 'Judas' themed chants aimed his way.

Players have frequently moved between these rivals in recent years, as illustrated by the fact that a combined total of 13 men in the two match-day squads had spent time on the books of the other club.


Fahey's departure really hurt, though, given his strong association with Pat's that endured during his stint in England. He didn't particularly enjoy his comeback year, however, despite winning the FAI Cup at the end of it, and that's why he upped sticks for his native Tallaght.

The talented midfielder has indicated that he is happier in Fenlon's regime, yet this game strengthened the belief that little will split these sides come the end of the year. Two points is the current gap, with Rovers third and the Saints fifth.

Rovers certainly started the brighter in a first half that was short on clear-cut goalscoring opportunities. When one was created, the visitors' top scorer Mikey Drennan wasted it by sending a Gavin Brennan cross over the bar with Conor O'Malley beaten.

The hosts gradually began to pose difficulties at the other end with the directness of Conan Byrne presenting a few issues.

Ciaran Kilduff, who made the opposite move to Fahey in the off-season, was twice unable to get the right connection on headers that he was stretching to meet. Chris Forrester, acting as the playmaker, was sprightly in this period.

Fahey was effectively deployed in a similar role by Fenlon and his hecklers did hold their breath before the interval when a classy first touch opened up the space for a thunderbolt that was marginally over-clubbed.

The Saints restarted with purpose with Kilduff and Byrne testing Craig Hyland, although they were weakened by the loss of the combative Greg Bolger to injury.

Fenlon's withdrawal of Stephen McPhail allowed Fahey to drop deeper with new arrival Ryan Brennan pushing on to support Drennan, and Rovers steadily began to exert influence again as the heavens opened and the tempo dropped.

Both benches switched things up for the final ten, with the Hoops springing Danny North and shading it territorially. But the young Saints centre-half pairing of Lee Desmond and Sean Hoare stood firm as an off-target Luke Byrne header from a Fahey free ensured stalemate.

St Patrick's Athletic - O'Malley, Chambers, Hoare, Desmond, Bermingham; Bolger (McCormack 55), Brennan; Byrne, Forrester (Verdon 80), Greene; Kilduff

Shamrock Rovers - Hyland, Madden, Blanchard, Kenna, Byrne; Cregg, McPhail (R Brennan 50); Miele (North 79), Fahey, G Brennan (Waters 71); Drennan

Ref - D McKeon (Dublin)

Irish Independent

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