Saturday 20 October 2018

St Patrick's Day as saints stay up

Point is enough for Saints as Galway go down

Killian Brennan celebrates putting St Pat’s ahead away to Derry City last night. Pic: Sportsfile
Killian Brennan celebrates putting St Pat’s ahead away to Derry City last night. Pic: Sportsfile

And so, it came to pass that top-flight football will once again have a home on Emmet Road in Dublin's southside next season as Liam Buckley's team did what they had to do: the Saints saved themselves.

It was a case of relief, more than elation, from the travelling supporters in Derry City's temporary home of Maginn Park in Buncrana last night, St Patrick's Athletic getting the point they needed to stay in the Premier Division, playing out a 1-1 draw on a cloudy Donegal night when magic was hard to come by.

The pain was being felt in Galway as events last night, a 4-3 home loss to Dundalk left the Tribesmen heading for Division One.

The game, like the season, is one to forget for Pat's as, apart from a first-half goal from Killian Brennan they failed to trouble Eric Grimes, making his full league debut in the Derry goal. But it was all about survival, not scintillating football.

At one stage early on, the nerves did infect the away fans, when word came through that Galway were winning, at a stage when Pat's were still scoreless. A Dundalk revival put them 3-1 up by half time but even if Galway had managed to pull off a miracle win, the Saints' effort fulfilled their part of the bargain

It was one of those strange nights of football. A section of the away support spent a chunk of their time checking their phones for updates from the Galway-Derry game, and goals (Dundalk ones) from that game created more excitement than the fare on offer in Buncrana.

And they had little to watch on the field here in Inishowen as Brennan's goal was the only thing of note to happen in a slow first half, the former Derry player on hand to finish off a move started by Michael Barker with an assist from Conan Byrne, Brennan scoring from the Saints' first attempt at goal.

Derry had been a threat, at times, as headed efforts from Ronan Curtis and Lukas Schubert gave City the chance of an equaliser, but Polish keeper Lukas Skowron saved both times.

Skowron pulled off another fine save two minutes into the second half, denying Aaron McEneff, but he was unable to stop a stunning effort from Rory Patterson on 48 minutes.

The Pole saved again, from Schubert and Harry Monaghan, Skowron making a strong case for a new contract and a return to Inchicore for the 2018 season.

As has been the case for every Derry home game since the shocking death of their captain in March, the spirit of Ryan McBride was around the place, and a minute's applause in the fifth minute - to mark McBride's shirt number - was carried out admirably by both sets of fans.

Derry have a future to aim for as they will move back into the renovated Brandywell home for the 2018 season.

Pat's? That's another story, as lessons have to be learned from this season of misery as they only avoided relegation on the final day of the campaign.

The mid-season shopping spree by Liam Buckley, with six new players brought in, was probably their saving grace and the signing of imports like Jordi Balk and Skowron shows that Buckley still has an eye for a player and a good contacts book.

Pat's have indeed won more trophies in the last five seasons than their Dublin rivals Bohs and Shamrock Rovers combined, and their promising underage structure could bring forth some real talent.

But Pat's need to do a lot of work, on and off the field, to make sure that a repeat of this season's relegation battle is avoided next season.

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