Three goals in the final ten minutes saw Saint Patrick’s Athletic complete a second-half comeback as they recovered from Lee-J Lynch’s stunning opener to beat Limerick 4-1 in the EA Sports Cup final at the Markets Field on Saturday evening.
The Shannonsiders – already First Division Champions – were dominant in the early stages but it was St. Pat’s that produced the first real efforts on goal, with Freddy Hall coming to the hosts’ rescue with two magnificent saves to deny Conan Byrne and Christy Fagan in quick succession.
But Limerick grabbed the lead that their play had deserved in the 18th minute when Lynch picked up possession from a throw-in and from outside the box he rocketed an unstoppable shot past Conor O’Malley.
Hall should have laid the platform for a Limerick victory when he smartly stopped Billy Dennehy’s early second-half free-kick, but both Chris Mulhall and Stephen Kenny passed up glaring openings to give the Blues a 2-0 lead.
And those misses would come back to haunt Martin Russell’s side as Fagan brought the Saints level with a back-post-finish from Dennehy’s cross on 65 minutes. And as time ticked by and Limerick started to tire, St. Pat’s took full advantage with Byrne, Jamie McGrath and Graham Kelly striking late to leave a cruel look on the end scoreline.
Limerick made all the early running and they fashioned a good opening in the sixth minute when Seán Russell’s left-wing cross fell to Lynch in the box but he could not connect on the full when well placed as the ball drifted harmlessly wide.
Shortly after, Kenny’s corner to the back was brought down by Paudie O’Connor who laid the ball into the path of captain Shane Duggan but from 20-yards the hometown captain shot over.
Aaron Greene, Mulhall and Paul O’Conor then combined well to leave the latter with an eye of goal just outside the box but he drove wide. Limerick maintained that pressure as Duggan saw a shot saved, Mulhall just inches away from getting a toe on it which may have took it past the ‘keeper.
The Shannonsiders had dominated but they were almost caught cold on the quarter-hour when, in the visitors’ first attack, Byrne found space 25-yards out and his curling effort seemed destined for the top corner only for Hall to get across brilliantly to push it behind.
Following the resulting corner, the Saints went even closer when Fagan got on the end of a cross but somehow Hall got down to deny the former Manchester United youngster. Ian Bermingham then headed over.
But after those frights, Limerick hit the front with a stunning goal from Lynch. Russell delivered the throw-in into space for Lynch to run onto and, 25-yards out, the 24-year-old unleashed a rocket beyond O’Malley as the Markets Field erupted.
While Limerick were on top, they suffered another scare five minutes after that opener when Dennehy hit the post. After that followed a good spell of possession for the Saints but there was little product at the end of it, as the Blues held their lead into half-time.
St. Pat’s started the second half brightly and Hall did well to get down and stop Dennehy’s free-kick. But Limerick should have made it 2-0 seconds later when Mulhall broke through on goal only for O’Malley to deny him in a one-on-one.
Byrne then sliced a shot when he looked set to level, and moments later he went down in the box under a challenge from Robbie Williams but was given a yellow card for what referee Robert Rogers deemed a dive.
Again, Limerick should have doubled their advantage on 61 minutes when Russell delivered a terrific cross from the left flank onto the head of Kenny in the centre but from close in his header bounced into the ground and over the bar.
Soon, Shaun Kelly needed treatment for an arm injury and still struggling from that, St. Pat’s took advantage as Dennehy got down the left and put in a low cross for Fagan to tap in at the back post to make it 1-1.
Limerick were tiring and with ten minutes to go they suffered another blow as Kenny was forced off through injury. Hall then produced more heroics to stop Fagan from making it 2-1 after the striker got the slightest of touches to McGrath’s dangerous cross following a short corner.
But there was nothing the Bermudan could do to deny Byrne as he fired the Saints into an 84th-minute lead. The tie was put beyond any doubt shortly after when the visitors broke well and McGrath lifted the ball over Hall, and as Limerick pressed for some consolation, they were caught again deep in injury-time as Kelly was left all alone to make it 4-1.
Limerick: Freddy Hall, Shaun Kelly (Shane Tracy 66), Paudie O’Connor, Robbie Williams, Seán Russell, Paul O’Conor, Shane Duggan ©, Stephen Kenny (Garbhán Coughlan 80), Lee-J Lynch, Aaron Greene, Chris Mulhall (John O’Flynn 71). Goal: L Lynch (18). Booked: A Greene (53), P O’Connor (65). Unused Subs: Tommy Holland (GK), Tony Whitehead, Ross Mann, Seán McSweeney.
Saint Patrick’s Athletic: Conor O’Malley, Ger O’Brien ©, Seán Hoare, Michael Barker, Ian Bermingham, Conan Byrne, Graham Kelly, Lee Desmond, Billy Dennehy (Mark Timlin 89), Jamie McGrath, Christy Fagan (Dinny Corcoran 86). Goals: C Fagan (65), C Byrne (84), J McGrath (87), G Kelly (90+2). Booked: C Byrne (57), B Dennehy (66), G Kelly (89). Unused Subs: Brendan Clarke (GK), Rory Feely, Sam Verdon, Stephen Kinsella, Jonathan Lunney.
Referee: Robert Rogers.
Report Date: Saturday 17 September 2016
Images thanks to Conor Wyse Photography.