Robbie Benson seals fourth FAI Cup success for St Patrick's Athletic

In front of 37,126 fans, the best turnout for a final at Aviva Stadium, Chris Forrester thought he’d won it for Saints
Robbie Benson seals fourth FAI Cup success for St Patrick's Athletic

Robbie Benson of St Patrick's Athletic celebrates with goalkeeper Vitezslav Jaros after scoring the winning penalty. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Bohemians 1 St Patrick's Athletic 1

St Pat’s won 4-3 on pens

Robbie Benson was the FAI Cup final hero for St Patrick’s Athletic on Sunday afternoon, tucking away the decisive penalty in the shootout to down Bohemians before a record crowd.

In front of 37,126 fans, the best turnout for a final at Aviva Stadium, Chris Forrester thought he’d won it for Saints by firing them ahead on the stroke of half-time in extra-time but Rory Feely’s bullet header immediately after it forced penalties.

Bohs were looking good for the trophy when James Talbot saved Forrester’s third Saints penalty but Tyreke Wilson and Keith Ward were both off-target with the next Bohs spot-kicks, allowing Benson to seal the riches It marked a fitting end to a stellar season for St Pat’s, the nearest challengers to champions Shamrock Rovers in the league but defeat means there’ll be no European football for Bohemians for the first time in three years.

St. Patrick's Athletic Robbie Benson scores the winning penalty. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
St. Patrick's Athletic Robbie Benson scores the winning penalty. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Bohs started as expected, with Andy Lyons preferred ahead of Kevin Feely, and Georgie Kelly sufficiently recovered from a calf injury to lead the line.

Remarkably, he was the only striker on the pitch. Stephen O’Donnell has an abundance of midfielders to pick from and he chose the best of them to operate a system without a recognised forward.

Mattie Smith came closest to that tag by reputation but he was deployed on the left, leaving Benson the player most advanced Saint in that modern category of false nine.

Benson developed his name at Dundalk as a midfielder capable of arriving in the box with impeccable timing.

Being asked to hold up the ball wouldn’t be deemed his forte and it wasn’t long before Forrester was rotating into that berth.

Forrester’s friendship with Keith Buckley was an intriguing subplot of this first Dublin derby final since 2000.

Just three minutes in and the duo were staring at each other following a barge by Buckley into his pal. Forrester would exact revenge with interest later.

Ross Tierney was first to get a sight at goal, albeit a partial one, when slipped in winger Liam Burt but he poked the loose ball wide of the far post.

It seemed Ian Bermingham would be the unlikeliest player an early chance would fall to and the Saints captain looked startled when James Talbot’s wayward clearance came his way.

Bermingham could see the empty goal but his execution with a first-time volley lacked accuracy and flew wide.

His fellow full-back, Sam Bone, also found himself in unfamiliar territory on 18 minutes, darting free deep onto a pass from Darragh Burns but unable to beat Talbot from an acute angle.

Bone should have at least earned a corner for his endeavours but referee Rob Hennessy didn’t notice the nick his shot took off the goalkeeper’s chest.

St Pat’s were managing to handle 26-goal machine Kelly, restricting him to one opening in the first half, which he rippled into the side-netting after 20 minutes.

Indeed, Forrester almost nodded them ahead when beating Talbot in the air from a corner without keeping his header down but the stopper redeemed himself on 36 minutes.

Once Jamie Lennon brushed Ross Tierney aside 20 yards out, he played a neat one-two with Benson to create space to shoot, yet his low drive was foiled by a superb one-handed save.

Forrester tested Talbot again with a shot that he gathered at the second attempt but Tierney dragged his effort wide at the other end.

Chances continued to flow after the break, with Ali Coote denied by a Desmond block and Talbot keeping out the rebound from Forrester.

From the corner, Kelly nodded over before falling to the ground clutching his calf. His final, and probably last game for Bohs, was over just before the hour mark.

There followed a flat period, punctuated by disruptions as fatigue kicked in. Smith’s rocket deflected over while Darragh Burns, who had lived up to his name with explosive runs in the first half, was foiled by a late block.

Promise Omochere, Kelly’s replacement, was inches from connecting with a cross by fellow substitute Stephen Mallon with four minutes left but extra-time was inevitable.

Tierney’s decision to labour on the ball rather than shoot cost him when Desmond had time to clear the danger but Ronan Coughlan was denied from a clearer opening, his exchange of passes with fellow sub Billy King setting up a chance that Talbot scampered off his line to smother.

It needed a spark to break the flatness and Forrester provided it. When Buckley got too close, he nipped the ball past him on the halfway line, dinking inside Omochere on his way to smashing his shot under Talbot’s reach.

That provided the catalyst for Saints to react. Within a minute of the restart, Keith Ward’s teasing corner-kick was attacked by Feely whose header flew beyond Vitezslav Jaros high into the net.

Feely could have grabbed another with two minutes left, another header from a corner requiring a goal-line clearance by Jak Hickman.

It wouldn’t be the last of the drama as Saints lifted the Cup for only the fourth time in their history.

BOHEMIANS: J Talbot; A Lyons, R Cornwall C Kelly (R Feely 75), T Wilson; K Buckley (C Levingston 116), D Devoy; A Coote (S Mallon 86), R Tierney, L Burt (K Ward 113); G Kelly (P Omochere 62).

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: V Jaros; S Bone (J Hickman 90+6), L Desmond, P Barrett (J Abankwah 82), I Bermingham; A Lewis (R Coughlan 97), J Lennon (B King 60); D Burns, C Forrester, M Smith (J McClelland 76); R Benson.

Referee: Rob Hennessy (Limerick).

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