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Sunday 22 October 2017

Saints sin in awful start

St Patrick's Ath 1 Galway Utd 3

John O’Sullivan heads home for Galway Photo: Sportsfile
John O’Sullivan heads home for Galway Photo: Sportsfile

President Michael D Higgins is going to have a lot of anxious and stressful nights ahead of him if he's needed as the man to help cobble a government together.

But the life-long Galway United fan will have enjoyed his evening in Inchicore last night among the crowd at Richmond Park, seeing Galway come from behind to beat St Patrick's Athletic 3-1.

It was a stunning way for Tommy Dunne's Galway outfit to start off their 2016 campaign but, viewed from the Camac where the Saints supporters gather, this was grim stuff. Liam Buckley has signed a lot of attacking talent ahead of the new season, hoping to spark some life into the club after a limp title challenge last season, but defence was the problem here.

Leading 1-0 early in the second half, Pats should have put this game to bed but a stunning save from Galway keeper Conor Winn, some clever finishing by United and an exposed defence left Pats pointless.

The Saints have a new look about them in 2016, four debutants in Liam Buckley's starting XI last night, leading to a different midfield: David Cawley,Graham Kelly and Shane McEleney formed the three-man axis in the middle.

It took them time to settle into a rhythm, wide players Billy Dennehy and Conan Byrne working hard at stretching the Galway back four but their attempts on goal were wide of the target.

The absence through injury of Chris Fagan for much of last season harmed Pats no end and the Inchicore faithful hoped that a fit Fagan could work his magic this season.

But the Saints striker was followed every step of the way by Galway defender Paul Sinnott and it was, in the main, a frustrating night for Fagan.

He did get on the scoresheet two minutes into the second half - the first 45 minutes were largely forgettable - as Fagan finished from close range after Billy Dennehy sent in a cross.

Conan Byrne could have doubled the lead but denied by keeper Winn, and Galway got back into the game on 57 minutes. Former Saint Vinny Faherty picked up on a throw in, found the home defence in an AWOL sort of mood and finished past former team-mate Brendan Clarke.

A Winn save on 78 minutes denied Fagan a certain goal and perhaps that stop spurred on his side as Galway ran riot.

Twelve minutes from time, John Sullivan had a free header past Clarke, from a Ryan Connolly cross, to give United the lead.

And in injury time the home defence was again asleep as sub Ryan Curran sprinted forward and curled a fine finish past an exposed Clarke.

An awful start to 2016 for the Saints but, for now, the West is awake.

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