Pats pile on the style to sink champs
HE ARRIVED with 20 minutes of the game gone and left with 20 minutes to go and still saw three goals, so it's hard to know what Giovanni Trapattoni made of his trip to Richmond Park last night on only his second appearance at a domestic league game.
A Dublin derby at Richer in front of 2,168 fans is a world away from the diet of Serie A, European Cup and major titles on which Trapattoni has feasted all his life. But the Italian will have come away from Inchicore impressed by the spirit, dedication and also touches of class from St Pats -- round of applause for veteran Stuart Byrne for a superb goal -- as they put up a stunning fightback to come from 1-0 down and go on to beat the reigning champions 3-1.
Three goals in the space of four minutes won the points for the Saints but the major turning point in this game, the result of which sees Pats keep right behind league leaders Dundalk, was a 12th-minute challenge on Pats midfielder Gareth Coughlan by former Pats hero Mark Quigley. That ended Quigley's participation on the night as the player, booked for the rash challenge, was taken off by Bohs boss Pat Fenlon. It also ended the season for Coughlan, who broke his leg in what was only his fifth league start of the season.
"I think from that moment on we played like men possessed. It was a deciding moment in the game and from that point on we really started to play, and played really well. We got three goals and could have scored more," said Pats boss Pete Mahon, conflicted by moods of pleasure over the win but bitter disappointment for Coughlan as the 20-year-old's season is finished before it had even begun.
"It was a good night for us. It was well justified and well deserved. To beat Bohs any time is good but last night was really, really good and I felt the players justified what I thought all along, that in the two games against Bohs so far this season there was very little between the two teams. The difference last night was that we got a few little breaks which we didn't get in the Setanta Cup game, and that was the difference last night.
"We scored three goals last night but on another night we could have scored six. Their keeper made some outstanding saves and we hit the post as well.
"We won't get carried away now. We beat a very good team last night and it's only three points for us. We have to make sure we have the same intensity for the rest of the season.
"I'm glad the mid-season break is coming as we've had a lot of games. That was our 21st game of the season last night. We're down a few bodies and we'll miss Gareth Coughlan now as well.
"But the players last night showed me what I have been saying all along, that they really want to play for St Pats. They have bought into the club and if they can maintain that level of skill and commitment for the rest of the year, we'll have a decent season," added Mahon.
The game really turned on the incident in the 13th minute, which changed the complexion of the match as Bohs, who had gone in front after 11 minutes through Jason Byrne, lost their shape and composure.
Bohs striker Quigley launched into a tackle on Saints midfielder Coughlan, but the challenge by ex-Pats player Quigley provoked intense ire from the home players and supporters, whose anger intensified when Quigley was merely booked. The injured Coughlan was replaced by Derek Doyle and was then taken to hospital, the former Bray player this morning due to undergo surgery.
Tensions simmered for a few minutes after and almost immediately Bohs boss Fenlon made the decision to substitute Quigley, presumably for fear that the player could get another card at some stage in the game, though Quigley initially pleaded with his manager not to take him off. Padden Madden replaced Quigley.
And on 37 minutes Pats drew level through sub Doyle, when he stabbed a shot past Barry Murphy after the Bohs keeper had saved an effort from Paul Byrne -- Saints fans no doubt finding it fitting that Coughlan's replacement scored the equaliser.
Emboldened by the goal, Pats grew in confidence and went ahead two minutes later, Paul Byrne scoring his fifth league goal of the season. Barry Murphy was unable to clear a long ball in from Ryan Guy and Byrne had a relatively easy finish.
A good night got even better for Pats on 41 minutes when Saints skipper Stuart Byrne scored the fourth and best goal of the game, Bohs shooting themselves in the foot here twice, first when striker Jason Byrne gave the ball away and then when a slack clearance from Ruaidhri Higgins gifted the ball to Byrne and he curled a stunning shot past Barry Murphy.
Just before the break, Vinny Faherty almost added a fourth goal for Pats but that was it for the night in terms of goals, as Bohs never really looked like troubling Gary Rogers in the Pats goal after the break.
Saints midfielder Dave Mulcahy saw his shot go over the bar on 66 minutes and by the 70th minute of the game Trapattoni had seen enough as he departed with his staff. He missed some clever attacking play late on by Pats man Paul Byrne, the striker initially denied by a block from Brian Shelley and then a save from Murphy in the Bohs goal. Three minutes from the end, Pats sub Alex Williams also tried his luck with a cheeky lob.
So Pats claimed the points and they hope that six points from their next two games, against strugglers Drogheda and Bray, could see them top of the league by the time of the mid-season break next month.
For Bohs there is the task of getting this dismal display out of their system.
"We started the game really well but after the incident we lost our discipline and our shape," said Bohs boss Fenlon. "There was very little between the two teams but they had more hunger to win the match."