Kavanagh nightmare keeps Pat's dreaming
Shamrock Rvrs 2
St Pat's Ath 2
WHILE the Cup dream lives on for St Patrick's Athletic, they escaped elimination here because of a moment that will cause Patrick Kavanagh nightmares unless Shamrock Rovers can bounce back to win tomorrow's FAI Cup semi-final replay at Richmond Park.
A week on from their cataclysmic collapse against Sporting Fingal, Michael O'Neill's side again entered the final minutes of a big Tallaght encounter holding onto a one-goal lead.
They were seconds away from setting up an Aviva Stadium showdown with Sligo Rovers, penned into their own area as Pete Mahon's Saints launched an aerial bombardment.
It reaped dividends in surreal fashion with teenage substitute Sean Stewart delivering a set-piece that couldn't find his team-mates, but made its way to Hoops winger Kavanagh, who inexplicably powered a header past Alan Mannus under no real pressure.
A few minutes of injury-time later, Rovers fans were streaming for the exits as the Saints faithful celebrated the twist of fate that maintains their hopes of ending the well-documented 49-year FAI Cup famine.
Mahon admitted it was a break but stressed his belief that, on the balance of play, the Inchicore men deserved to finish on level terms.
"He got himself into a bad area," said O'Neill, of Kavanagh's misfortune. "We're not in the Cup final because of an own goal, but we've got an opportunity on Tuesday night to put it right.
"You can't legislate for some of the things that have happened in the last few games. I felt for large parts of the game today, we were the better team."
Certainly, the Hoops started better, keen to erase the painful memories of last Saturday week.
Mahon conceded that his team suffered in the first half an hour, although he felt there might have been a push on Derek Doyle in the build-up to Chris Turner's 16th-minute deadlock breaker; with the Northern Irishman rising highest to steer Billy Dennehy's free-kick over Gary Rogers.
It was a bruising period for the hosts, though, with the injured James Chambers replaced by Kavanagh. Thomas Stewart, who took a pain-killing injection before the game, was ineffective.
Meanwhile, the absence of Craig Sives and long-term injury victim Dan Murray meant that Pat Flynn was operating as a makeshift centre-half with Stephen Rice filling in at right-back.
In other words, they were vulnerable and Pat's eventually began to make inroads, with strikers Ryan Guy and Daniel North roaming to influence things, with the latter creating the equaliser, benefiting from an Enda Stevens slip and dragging back for Dave McAllister who carefully converted.
Both teams could have scored in a frenetic period before the interval, with Mannus brilliantly denying a header from the increasingly prominent McAllister, and then Rovers' Stephen Bradley striking the crossbar with a free that arose from a Dennehy-inspired counter.
The momentum was back with the Tallaght men after the resumption, with Dessie Baker summoned to add more penetration. Yet it was Gary Twigg, confined to bed with a virus for most of the week, who put the locals back into the lead. He eluded the attentions of Conor Kenna to steer a header into the bottom corner; the genesis of the goal was an error from ex-Hoop Ian Bermingham who sloppily gifted possession to Rice, who advanced to tease the ball into the danger zone.
Inevitably, Pat's had to go on the chase as the game entered its final quarter, with North and McAllister squandering half chances, before the latter -- the man of the match -- was denied by a superb stop from Mannus, who got his body down to turn the downward header to safety.
Mahon sent in promising teenage winger Stewart as a last throw of the dice and switched to three at the back for the first time in this campaign, with O'Neill withdrawing Twigg and switching to a 4-5-1.
Nevertheless, they might have added a third when Rogers made a fingertip save from Dennehy. "That save gave us a lift," acknowledged Mahon, whose side pushed forward with purpose, and pumped crosses into the area.
Seconds after Price bravely cleared from Mulcahy, the Saints' pressure yielded the corner which culminated in embarrassment for Kavanagh and relief for the large travelling contingent.
It sets up a replay tomorrow night, with Mahon unhappy at the limited time to recover, stressing his belief that the part-time teams should have been involved in Friday's schedule, thus giving them a weekend to recuperate. "They (Sligo Rovers and Bohemians) had 72 hours to recover if their game finished in a draw, whereas we only have 48," he said.
Given the circumstances, though, the hectic schedule is preferable to a week of lamenting further cup heartbreak.
Shamrock Rovers -- Mannus, Rice, Flynn, Price, Stevens; Chambers (Kavanagh 25), Bradley, Turner, Dennehy; Twigg (Bayly 83), Stewart (Baker 61).
St Patrick's Athletic -- Rogers, Pender, Kenna, Haverty (Stewart 80), Bermingham; McAllister, Mulcahy, Byrne, Doyle (Cash 69); Guy, North (Faherty 90).
Ref -- T Connolly (Dublin).