Party time for St Pat’s

Derry City 0 St Patrick’s Athletic 2
‘If at first you don’t succeed...’ might as well have been a club motto for St Patrick’s Athletic over the past 53 years but yesterday they finally put an end to their infamous FAI Cup jinx, by beating Derry City 2-0 in front of a crowd of just over 17,000 at the Aviva Stadium.

Appropriately enough, ‘if at first you don’t succeed’ could also have been the mantra of match-winner Christy Fagan.

The former Manchester United youth player had already seen a few chances go a-begging before he showed a predator’s instinct to score early and then late in the second half, a double whammy to which Derry City ultimately had no response. Yet, as the game wore on, there were still a few nervy moments for the Dubliners as they were forced to drop deep in the face of Derry’s efforts to level things up, before Fagan finally settled the issue in time added on with what turned out to be almost the last kick of the game.

“With 20 minutes to go, I wished it was over,” admitted Pat’s manager Liam Buckley afterwards. “But I am just delighted. It’s a monkey off our back, all this 50 years and whatever. It’s fantastic, particularly for our supporters who were believing in this hoodoo that was hanging over us. It’s great to bury that one.”

“It just wasn’t to be for us on the day,” was the reaction of his counterpart, Derry boss Peter Hutton. “And Pats are a good side. They’ll ask questions of any team. But I thought our boys really coped admirably and, if anything, just didn’t get the break of the ball.”

In truth, there can be little doubt that Pat’s deserved the victory, their signature interplay a feature of a first-half performance in which they were dominant almost everywhere but on the scoreboard.

In one early sequence, Fagan had three successive efforts on the Derry goal, his first shot blocked by a defender, the second parried by keeper Ger Doherty and the third, from the rebound, blazed wide of the far post from a tight angle. Thirteen minutes in, and Doherty foiled him again, getting out quickly to avert the danger after Fagan had timed his run perfectly to beat the Derry offside trap. And had the striker shown a surer touch before finally locating his shooting boots, he might also have made more of a couple of fine Sean Hoare balls from deep.

In the 38th minute, Fagan came closer still, his left-footed volley taking a lick off the far post after Derry had struggled to clear a corner. But, six minutes after the restart, he finally got his overdue reward.

The increasingly influential Keith Fahey powered up the right and, from his pull-back, the striker was able to turn and squeeze a shot away from inside the box.

There mightn’t have been much oomph in it but it still had just enough legs to prevent the covering Danny Ventre from clearing his lines as, to Ger Doherty’s evident dismay, the ball trickled in off the post.

Ugly though it might have been, the goal was just what the game needed, forcing Derry to really come out and play. Suddenly, Pat’s were back-pedalling for the first time but, equally, space was now opening up for them on the break. And in just those circumstances, Fagan should have made it safe in the 62nd minute. Fahey was again the creator with another run up the right but when his perfect curved pass found the striker unmarked at the far side of the box, his unconvincing side-footed effort drifted wide of the post.

With Barry McNamee joining the fray from the bench, Derry began to carry a much greater threat but the closest they came to an equaliser was one effort by the sub which failed to seriously worry keeper Brendan Clarke and a header from Rory Patterson which flashed just over the bar. Then, in the game’s very last act, Fagan took full advantage of a disastrously botched attempt at a backpass by Derry skipper Barry Molloy to take the ball past Doherty and slip it home to the corner of the net, his 27th goal of a hugely productive season finally putting the issue beyond all doubt.

“What a feeling,” said the match-winner afterwards. “To score is a bonus, but to finish the season off with a trophy like that is great. I was disappointed I didn’t score in the first half, one or two of touches got away from me. Then we scored, Derry came into it in the second half, threw everything they had (at us) and kept us penned in but, luckily, we got the second goal.”

Finally, the Saints really were marching in and, as their fans celebrated wildly, an upbeat Keith Fahey probably best summed up what it all meant in Inchicore.

“The hoodoo, the voodoo, all that is finished,” he grinned. “I’m just delighted. Happy, happy, happy.”

DERRY CITY: Ger Doherty; Danny Ventre, Aaron Barry, Ryan McBride (Barry McNamee 65), Dean Jarvis; Stephen Dooley, Philip Lowry, Barry Molloy, Michael Duffy; Paddy McEleney (Sean Houston 90+2); Rory Patterson.

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Brendan Clarke; Ger O’Brien (Conor McCormack 80), Sean Hoare, Kenny Browne, Ian Bermingham; Greg Bolger; Conan Byrne, Keith Fahey (James Chambers 90+4), Killian Brennan, Chris Forrester (Lorcan Fitzgerald 90+2); Christy Fagan.

Referee: Padraigh Sutton (Clare).

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