Hughes strike saves 10-man Shels

THE search for their holy grail of an FAI Cup win after half a century’s wait continues for St Patrick’s Athletic as their jinx in the blue riband reared its head again at Tolka Park last night.

A goal up against 10 men, Pete Mahon’s side blew the chance to book a place in the decider at the Aviva Stadium on November 6, as their First Division hosts refused to roll over.

Instead, St Pat’s must meet a resolute Shelbourne again back at Richmond Park on Monday night, if they are to end their 50-year quest for the FAI Cup, this season.

Despite their heroics in securing a replay, it is perhaps the last thing Shelbourne need, as they pursue their main priority this season of promotion.

Shels’ rescheduled league game with Finn Harps on Monday will now have to be re-fixed to the last week of the season while two of their rivals for promotion, Limerick FC and Monaghan United, both winning last night, scarcely helped.

Belying their current league form, which has seen them lose three of their last four games to lose the leadership of the First Division table, Shels didn’t lack confidence from the off, taking the game to St Pat’s in a frenetic opening to the tie.

Top scorer Philly Hughes was Shels’ chief threat and he worked St Pat’s keeper Gary Rogers on five minutes, getting in a decent shot on the turn from Ian Ryan’s ball in from the right.

Good footwork by Daryl Kavanagh briefly relieved the pressure for St Pat’s as he set up strike partner Danny North whose shot had the sting taken out of it by a deflection.

But Shels were promptly back raiding again at the other end with Hughes’s header bringing a reflex save from Rogers from skipper David Cassidy’s cross.

A terrific move then carved St Pat’s open on 13 minutes. Cassidy broke down the inside left to thread Hughes in on goal but he drilled a shot agonisingly wide of Rogers’ left-hand post.

End to end stuff, the game was living up to its billing with the Saints front two of Kavanagh and Danny North causing Shels problems. Kavanagh won a free-kick off Colm James on 22 minutes with Stephen Bradley’s effort requiring a diving save from Dean Delaney.

It all then went badly wrong for Shelbourne six minutes before the interval.

Another Bradley free-kick in from the right was poorly defended. Cassidy’s clearing header dropped invitingly for North whose powerfully struck shot arrowed low into the bottom left-hand corner of Delaney’s net to give St Pat’s a 39th-minute lead.

Four minutes later it got worse for Alan Mathews’ side when midfielder James kicked out into the face of Murphy after they’d challenged for a high ball and was shown a straight red card by Cork referee Anthony Buttimer.

Yet Shelbourne didn’t lie down and came at St Pat’s again on the resumption with Stephen Paisley marauding forward to bring a save from Rogers with a deep cross from the left.

Delaney, with a save from Shane McFaul, and then the woodwork from Murphy’s cross, saved Shels before they punished shocking defending to raise the rusty roof of the main stand with an unlikely equaliser on 71 minutes.

Delaney’s route one ball wasn’t cleared by Evan McMillan and Derek Pender in turn and Hughes seized his moment in typical goal-poachers vein to shoot the loose ball to the net — his 24th strike of the season.

SHELBOURNE: Delaney; Ryan, Boyle, Paisley, Byrne; B. McGill (Gorman, 63 mins), Cassidy, Dawson, James, Clancy; Hughes (Da Silva 89 mins).

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Rogers; Pender, Kenna, E. McMillan, Bermingham; Murphy, McFaul (Crowley, 70 mins), Bradley (Mulcahy, 89 mins), Doyle (D. McMillan, 86 mins); North, Kavanagh.

Referee: Anthony Buttimer (Cork).

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