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Super Saints Win FAI Cup In Front Of Record Crowd

Super Saints Win FAI Cup In Front Of Record Crowd

By Aidan Crowley:

St. Patrick’s Athletic: 3.           Bohemian FC: 1.

Sunday 12th November 2023 is a date that will live long in the hearts and minds of  all St. Patrick’s Athletic fans, as the Super Saints were crowned Sports Direct Men’s FAI Cup champions for the second time in three years, following an impressive 3-1 victory over Bohemians at the Aviva Stadium.

However, they were forced to do it the hard way, as they came from behind in front of a record-breaking cup final crowd of 43,881 in Dublin 4, recovering from an early Jonathan Afolabi penalty, to clinch a third win over Bohs this season. This latest FAI Cup victory will taste all the sweeter for “the Pride of Inchicore”, as it is now their third in nine years, following a long fifty-three year drought since their 1961 win.

They were level before the break, thanks to a Mark Doyle header and they pushed on in the second half, revealing a much more clinical edge than their northside rivals, as an own goal and a Tommy Lonergan screamer settled the tie.

The Saints had already qualified for Europe, via their third-placed Premier League finish, so their win means that Shelbourne take the final Europa Conference League spot. The Inchicore outfit had the better record in clashes between the sides this season coming into this game, with two wins and a draw from their four meetings.

Pat’s manager, Jon Daly, obviously felt that the side that had started in their most recent game, at Dalymount Park, last month, could get the job done, as he made just one change from that starting eleven. His opposite number, Declan Devine, made four. Two were enforced, with Keith Buckley injured and Kacper Radowski suspended. Ali Coote and Paddy Kirk were dropped to the bench, with Jordan Flores, Danny Grant, James McManus and Cian Byrne all coming into the side.

The pressure was on Bohs from the outset, as their sole chance of tasting European football, next season, depended on securing victory in the blue-riband event of the domestic game. With this in mind, the Gypsies started at a frantic pace.

A mix-up in the Pat’s defence, gave Afolabi a chance to sprint down the right wing, but his low cross was muffled by an alert Breslin. At the other end, Breslin was involved again, as he tried to pick out Carty at the back post, only for Nowak to get a crucial touch on the ball.

It was reflective of the end-to-end nature of the game at that stage, with Breslin’s next act being a blatant foul on Afolabi inside the box. Referee, Paul McLaughlin had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Afolabi made no mistake, striking low and right, to give Bohs the dream start.

Although the game was still open at this stage, Bohs were beginning to dominate it. Afolabi blasted over the bar from just inside the box, following a short corner move and moments later, Clarke did the same thing, after slick play by Grant to drag the cover away.

However,  a couple of minutes later, Pat’s drew level. Mulraney whipped in a precision free from the left, with Doyle squeezing between Kukulowicz and Nowak, to head home from all of five yards. With twenty-three minutes on the clock, this record-breaking cup finalwas living up to its top billing.

Bohs almost re-took the lead immediately, but Curtis got a crucial touch, to prevent Grant poking home Connolly’s low cross at the back post.

Finally, the game began to settle in the last ten minutes of the half, with Forrester’s stroke from thirty yards, the closest either side would get. The Pat’s talisman managed to engineer some balletic movement on the ball, which only cleared Talbot’s crossbar by centimetres.

Time added at the end of the first half was five minutes, despite the absence of substitutions and treatment for players, a reflection of all the delays caused by flares being fired after each goal.

Pat’s were ahead within three minutes of the re-start. Once again, it was a cross from the right that Bohs failed to deal with. This time around, it was Nowak who got on the end of it, directing the ball passed his own keeper. Although with Redmond right behind him, there was little the defender could have done differently, once the ball reached him.

It could have been three for Pat’s  on fifty-four minutes, as confusion between Byrne and Nowak almost let Doyle slip in at the back post. Once more, it was Mulraney who curled the ball in from the right, a move that Bohs struggled with all afternoon.

However, the Phibsborough outfit remained unfazed, digging deep for an equaliser. Lyness was forced down low to his right, to palm away an effort by Flores, before Afolabi had two chances, either side of the hour mark.

Flores set him up for the first, running at the Bohs cover, before laying off a neat ball to him. However, the twenty-three-year-old was slow to propel the ball from his feet and the eventual effort was blocked by Redmond.

From the corner, Grant’s initial header was blocked by Forrester, only for the ball to fall to Kukulowicz, but his attempted flick went over the bar from close range. From another corner shortly afterwards, Afolabi got to the ball, but could only flash his header wide of the left post.

It was all Bohs at that stage, as they stretched the Pat’s cover once again. Grant pulled a low ball back for Afolabi, but again, the striker failed to keep the effort down, amidst groans from the South Stand.

Pat’s were dealt a severe blow, with twenty minutes remaining, when the mercurial Forrester was forced off with a leg injury.

This seemed to re-energise Bohs, who almost equalised on seventy-four minutes. When Flores’ free kick from the edge of the box agonisingly clipped the outside of the left post.

However, Bohs began to tire gradually and the game was over with four minutes to go. Having attempted to play the ball out of defence, they found themselves in disarray, with Lonergan nabbing the ball from a sluggish Flores. The former UCD man still had plenty to do, but from just outside the box he curled a sweet left-footer into the bottom left-hand corner of Talbot’s net, to send the Saints supporters in the North Stand into raptures.

St. Patrick’s Athletic: Lyness; Breslin, Redmond, Lennon, Forrester (Murphy 69), Norman, Doyle (Melia 58), Carty (Lonergan 75), Leavy (Nolan 75), Mulraney (McClelland 68), Curtis.

Subs Not Used: Rogers, McCormack, Timmermans, McGrath.

Yellow Cards: Norman (73), Lonergan (87).

Bohemian FC: Talbot; Kukulowicz, Nowak, Flores, Afolabi, Connolly, Grant (Coote 68), McManus (Kirk 52), Clarke, McDonnell (O’ Sullivan 85), Byrne.

Subs Not Used: Dennison, Holzman, McDaid, Akintunde, Williams, Twardek.

Yellow Cards: McManus (47), Kukulowicz (90 + 4).

Referee: Paul McLaughlin.

Attendance: 43,881.








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