Rovers pay the penalty as Pat's reach EA Sports Cup final
Shamrock Rovers 0 St Patrick’s Athletic 0 (St Patrick’s Athletic win 4-2 on penalties)
St Patrick’s Athletic booked their place in the final of the EA Sports Cup as they kept their heads in a windy Tallaght to defeat Dublin rivals Shamrock Rovers in a penalty shoot-out.
New signing Ian Morris dispatched the winner for the Saints as the spot kick drama provided some excitement following a scoreless 120 minutes.
Liam Buckley’s side looked in trouble in the shootout when Killian Brennan blasted the first penalty over the crossbar.
But Conor O’Malley saved from Mikey Drennan and Hoops defender Dave O’Connor struck the post to pave the way for Morris to settle it. Aaron Greene, Conan Byrne and James Chambers also converted for the victors.
The Saints just about deserved it on the balance of play. They certainly fielded a stronger side relative to their favoured league selection. With the backing of a substantial breeze, it was no great surprise that the visitors had the better of the first half.
For Rovers, it was a test of concentration as the Saints sought to benefit from the conditions with a series of diagonal balls into space with Conan Byrne’s right flank a regular target.
Still, despite that advantage and the pressure they were exerting, the Saints best efforts in the opening half hour came from distance with Barry Murphy keeping out accurate strikes from Chris Forrester and Brennan. His stop to deny Forrester was from the top drawer with the stand in keeper at full strength to push a terrific right footed curler onto the crossbar.
Rovers had their moments, though, with Cian Kavanagh threatening inside 30 seconds when O’Malley was ponderous in dealing with a routine cross.
Pat Fenlon’s charges, with seven changes from the team which triumphed in Drogheda on Friday, then created the first real gilt edged chance when Kieran Marty Waters collected a Ryan Brennan pass and did all the hard work by finding space before tamely firing wide with just O’Malley to beat.
The hosts did ride their luck inside the box when Saints centre half Lee Desmond steered a header from his partner Kenny Browne onto the crossbar with Murphy stranded. But they could have grabbed the lead just shy of the interval when Drennan struck the woodwork from close range as the Inchicore men flapped.
Entertainment levels slumped dramatically from the restart, with the 66th minute introduction of Hoops playmaker Brandon Miele injecting a bit of life to proceedings. Rovers came within inches of claiming the breakthrough when Max Blanchard failed to get a proper connection on a wind assisted Gary McCabe free that sailed to the far post.
This game was destined to go the distance, however, with Saints’ midfielder Chambers blasting over twice in the dying stages of the 90 minutes as Buckley’s men emerged from a quiet spell. Drennan, moved out wide after the arrival of Danny North, dragged a Rovers opportunity to win it wide of the post.
Chambers wandered into another promising position in the first period of extra time with Murphy alert to block his shot after Jamie McGrath’s trickery carved open Rovers. The Saints were also more dangerous in the final 15, with Dave O’Connor racing back to clear a goalbound Byrne chip off the line. In the end, the profligacy didn’t matter.
Shamrock Rovers: Murphy, Madden, Blanchard, O’Connor, Byrne; R Brennan, McCabe; Waters (G Brennan 103), C Kavanagh (Miele 66), D Kavanagh (North 80); Drennan
St Patrick’s Athletic: O’Malley, O’Brien, Browne, Desmond, Bermingham; Bolger (Morris 105); Byrne, Chambers, Brennan, Forrester (Greene 87); McGrath (Langley 111)
Referee: Paul Tuite (Dublin)