St Patrick’s Athletic 2-1 Shamrock Rovers

Report: Ryan McMullen

Late goal sees Hoops fall to defeat against St Pat’s on a frustrating evening in Inchicore.

Rovers first outing in June – a clash away to St Patrick’s Athletic at Richmond Park – occurred on a Thursday night instead of the usual Friday for fixtures, on account of Euro 2024 and the feast of football that comes with it due to get underway the following day. 

Ahead of the midweek match, Hoops boss Stephen Bradley made four switches to the team that overcame Drogheda United less than two weeks ago. Leon Pohls picking up an injury in training meant he missed out on a spot in the matchday squad, with Lee Steacy making his first appearance in goal since re-signing for Rovers in December, having previously represented the club at underage level. Pico Lopes returned at the back to come in for youngster Cory O’Sullivan. Josh Honohan and Dylan Watts were named in the eleven too as Conan Noonan dropped to the bench with Aaron McEneff absent as he is set to get married.

Rovers first-team debutant Lee Steacy in goal was called into action after just two minutes of play. Pat’s midfielder Jake Mulraney on the left of the pitch swung a lovely ball over the top to the on-rushing Mason Melia, but Steacy dived at the feet of the striker and denied him getting a shot away. As the ‘keeper was unsuccessful in his attempt to get the ball, shouts for a penalty emerged from the hosts although they weren’t entertained by referee Damien MacGraith.

Down the other end, the Hoops were looking for a penalty not long afterwards. Neil Farrugia made a superb drive from midfield, skilfully skipping past three Pats players before getting into the box, where he looked to be taken down by Luke Turner – but again, the referee waved away the protests for a spot-kick.

Mulraney tried to find Melia inside the area for a second time – his dangerous ball went under the 16-year-old’s feet and continued to make its way across the face of goal – going out just beyond the far right post in the end. 

The hosts came close through an attack led by Kian Leavy on the right. After making his way past Markus Poom, the Ardee native was able to find Romal Palmer near the back post, he had a strike kept out by an incredible stop by Steacy – notably, the ball rebounded back off the head of defender Josh Honohan afterwards and forced a second save out of the alert shot-stopper. Captain on the night Lee Grace was the man to eventually clear the ball following the danger in the Hoops penalty area. 

Despite Pat’s enjoying the better of the chances early on, the game was fairly even possession-wise – most of the play was occurring in midfield, and it seemed the opener could come for either side. 

Graham Burke found Rovers first opportunity on target with a firmly hit strike which was well stopped by Danny Rogers in the Pat’s goal.

And just minutes later, the Hoops had themselves in front. On the right flank, the ball was picked up by Farrugia who made a pacey run forward into the box and was able to tee up Johnny Kenny in a dangerous position – the in-form striker turned and fired the ball low into the right side of the net to grab his ninth goal of the season in style, and put the advantage with Rovers. 

In the aftermath of the opener, Rovers were in full control of the game, and they went on to have another chance as they looked to add to their lead. 

Again, Farrugia who had been putting plenty of pressure on the Pat’s defence, was at the heart of the action – playing a pass to Aaron Greene at the edge of the box, he released a strike but that was crucially blocked by Jamie Lennon.

Approaching the break, Josh Honohan went down and was called to be substituted – Stephen Bradley sprung Richie Towell off his bench to replace the defender. 

The Hoops dominated for the spell leading up to the break. And Bradley’s team were to go in at half-time with a deserved lead – one that they would be hoping to build on in the second half. 

Pat’s were quick out of the blocks following the restart – however, Mulraney blasted well over the crossbar following some well-worked play from the home side.  

After receiving the ball from Graham Burke, Kenny failed to find the target from a good position – his effort was too high and flew above the crossbar.

A right-footed attempt by Mulraney inside the box following an Axel Sjoberg delivery saw Steacy get down low on his right and do well to gather.

In the 74th minute, Ruairi Keating thought he had put things level when he put the ball in the back of the net, only to look across and see the linesman had raised his flag, ruling the goal out for off-side. 

Although Keating did find an equaliser for the Saints just one minute later. Mason Melia’s high press put Steacy under pressure as he had the ball at his feet, the 31-year-old’s attempt to clear the ball took a deflection and fell out to Keating – the striker took advantage, curling into the bottom right corner of the goal. 

Another blow came Rovers way on the 80-minute mark, Lee Grace had to be taken off with a knock – Conan Noonan made his way onto the pitch and replaced him. Jack Byrne was also called from the bench – coming on for Graham Burke in a separate substitution during the same minute. 

And things got worse for the already frustrated Hoops side late into the seven minutes of stoppage time. Sjoberg on the right sent a cross into the box – the ball was met by substitute Brandon Kavanagh, who powered his header into the roof of the net to earn Pat’s all three points right at the death. 

Rovers will have to wait until after the League of Ireland’s mid-season break to try and bounce back from their disappointing defeat. Bradley’s side will travel west to face Sligo Rovers, that match taking place on Friday 28th June, with a kick-off time of 7:45 pm scheduled at The Showgrounds.

St Patrick’s Athletic: Rogers, Sjoeberg, Redmond ©, Grivosti, Turner (McClelland 55’), Lennon, Forrester, Palmer (Keating 61’), Leavy, Mulraney, Melia (B Kavanagh 89’). 

St Patrick’s Athletic unused substitutes: Pitaluga, C Kavanagh, Pettifer, Bolger, Nolan, Keeley. 

Shamrock Rovers: Steacy, Farrugia, Honohan (Towell 42’), Lopes, Grace © (Noonan 80’), Poom (C O’Sullivan 72’), Watts, Nugent, Burke (Byrne 80’), Greene, Kenny. 

Shamrock Rovers unused substitutes: Leitis, Barrett, J O’Sullivan, Solanke, Dillon. 

Referee: Damien MacGraith