Teenage star Sam Curtis lifts Jon Daly’s Saints to Tolka Park triumph

Shelbourne 0, St Patrick’s Athletic 1

Sam Curtis of St Patrick's Athletic heads his side's winning goal against Shelbourne at Tolka Park. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Aidan Fitzmaurice

If successive Friday nights are, in effect, a job interview for Jon Daly so he can land the St Patrick’s Athletic post on a long-term basis, the caretaker boss is doing just about all he can as he orchestrated a win from a tight Dublin derby.

Aged just 17, Saints man Sam Curtis was the youngest player on the pitch at Tolka Park, half the age of team-mate Eoin Doyle, but the defender showed he the nous needed at the other end of the field, his 57th-minute header the difference between the two sides. .

It’s three wins from four games now for Daly since he moved from assistant under previous boss Tim Clancy to interim manager, the side up to fourth in the table, and Daly’s employers should be impressed at how his side recovered from a sub-par first-half display to win a rather dull derby.

Shels were the better side in a first half low on quality, but it was the Saints who came closer to scoring.

Their best opportunity came on 25 minutes when, from a short free-kick from Jake Mulraney, the ball came in the direction of Ben McCormack and the winger, in only his second start of the season, let fly with a shot that struck the crossbar.

Matty Smith and Jack Moylan were a menace to the away side but for all their possession, Shels struggled to carve out proper chances, Smith the creator on 18 minutes with a move that set up Evan Caffrey but the ball bobbled awkwardly at the crucial moment and the danger passed.

The Saints were brighter after the break, with less nervousness about their play and more conviction, and they finally had their opening on 57 minutes.

Shels ’keeper Conor Kearns had done well to deny Chris Forrester, and from the rebound Jake Mulraney’s effort was deflected for a corner. Mulraney took that corner kick and found Curtis unmarked and free to head home his first senior goal, right in front of the away fans at the Ballybough end.

​Pat’s had the advantage but were unable to inflict any more punishment on a Shels side who struggled to create, Moylan frustrated on 80 minutes as his strong run towards goal was cut out by Tom Grivosti.

Shels, desperate to extend their unbeaten run, went close late on, sub Kyle Robinson hitting the side netting with a header, while Shane Farrell was just off target with a fierce drive, and while the awarding of seven minutes of injury-time gave the home fans hope, nothing would come their way as Pat’s held on for a hard-earned but vital win.

SHELBOURNE – Kearns; Griffin, Byrne (Robinson 85), JR Wilson; Farrell, Coyle (McManus 66), Lunney, T Wilson (Ledwidge 85); Caffrey (Hakiki 57), Smith; Moylan.

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC – Lyness; Sjoberg (McGrath 80), Curtis, Grivosti, Breslin; Lennon; McCormack (Timmermans 70), Murphy (M Doyle 70), Forrester, Mulraney; E Doyle (Carty 85).

REF – P McLaughlin