St Patrick’s Athletic opened their league campaign with a 1-0 home win against Bray Wanderers at Richmond Park on Friday night.
The Seagull’s haven’t won a game on the opening day in the last three seasons, and the Wicklow side never looked like stopping the rot.
The main talking points in the game was a sending off on either side, with Dave Webster seeing red for Bray and former seagull Jake Kelly dismissed for Bray.
On a mild night in Richmond Park, the opening ten minutes of this league fixture of the season began at a slow pace, with neither side really asserting themselves on the other. Dean Kelly looked lively up front for the Saints, whilst John Mulroy was busy trying to create for Bray.
Bray had a bright spell just before the St Pat’s opener, with John Mulroy and Dave Webster combining to win a corner, which was subsequently headed over by skipper Danny O’Connor.
Last year’s league winner for Shamrock Rovers Dean Kelly opened the scoring on the 15th minute, when his glancing header from Sean O’Connor’s corner was scrambled away by Dean Zambra, but referee Alan Kelly deemed the ball to be over the line. Bray players rushed to confront the referee but he was having none of it as Dean Kelly wheeled away to celebrate a debut goal.
The Inchicore side, looked to play football on the ground at all times, and this led to a number of quick attacks. Dean Kelly worked an opening for Sean O’Connor, but his effort was straight at Bray keeper Quigley. The same man O’Connor got in behind after a rare long ball from the back, but he clipped his effort just wide of the far post with only Quigley to beat.
Despite good attacking openings in the first half, the St. Pat’s defence looked shaky, letting Bray build a number of opportunities, and causing a bit of panic for keeper Brendan Clarke with numerous badly timed or poorly executed back passes. Jason Byrne worked a chance for himself five minutes before the break, but he put the ball wide of Brendan Clarke's right hand post with the outside of his boot.
The second half began much smarter than the first, with one of seven debutants in the St. Pats line up, John Russell, trying his hardest to get in behind the Bray backline. Bray came straight back with Kieran Waters down the left, but his centre missed the acrobatic efforts of Jason Byrne.
Liam Buckley’s side again looked to their passing game as they went in search of a second goal. Conor Kenna found Ger O’Brien well, but the full backs cross was cleared for a corner by Dave Webster. Midfielder James Chambers then sought out Ian Bermingham down the left, but the left full backs centre was also blocked for a corner.
It was then the Bray back four who began to look sloppy. They failed a number of times to clear a Chambers free kick, before the ball fell back at the feet of the midfielder, but his ball was too long for big centre back Kenny Browne. Browne seems to be a favourite of Buckley’s having started all three competitive games thus far.
The game somewhat petered out after the hour, much like the first half. The next major talking point was Alan Kelly brandishing a second yellow card for Dave Webster after a rash tackle on his former team mate and Saints substitute Jake Kelly. There was no complaint from any of the Bray players and full back Webster walked.
Saints twice went close to doubling their lead inside the last ten minutes, both chances coming from nomadic striker Stephen O’Flynn, first his header went over from a Dean Kelly cross, and then his right footed drive was well saved by Darren Quigley in the Seagull’s goal.
Alan Kelly then levelled the sides at ten each with seven left on the clock when former Bray man Jake Kelly clashed off the ball with Dane Massey. The linesman, who was less than five feet away, consulted the referee and Jake Kelly went for an early bath. Saints players protested what looked like a nothing incident. Darren Meenan did look bright however when he came on for goalscorer Dean Kelly, twice testing Quigley, who was busier than opposite number Clarke for the duration.
Bray did push for a late equaliser, but to no avail. A couple of offside rulings and a few long punts were unsuccessful for Pat Devlin’s side.
St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ger O’Brien, Kenny Browne, Conor Kenna, Ian Bermingham; James Chambers, Mark Rossiter, John Russell, Sean O’Connor (Jake Kelly, 70), Christopher Forrester (Stephen O'Flynn, 74); Dean Kelly (Darren Meenan, 84).
Subs Not Used: Barry Murphy, Pat Flynn, Jake Carroll, Ian Daly.
Bookings: O'Brien (77).
Sendings Off: J Kelly (86)
Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; Dave Webster, Sean Houston (Jonathan Kelty, 87), Dane Massey, Pierce Sweeney; Dean Zambra, Danny O’Connor, Adam Hanlon, John Mulroy (Graham Kelly, 63), Kieran Waters; Jason Byrne (Anthony Bolger, 82).
Subs Not Used: Brian Kane, Connor Butler, Adam Mitchell, Craig Dowling.
Bookings: Mulroy (16), Webster (51)
Sendings Off: Webster (78).
Referee: Alan Kelly.
Extratime.ie man of the match: Dean Kelly.
Damien Byrne joined the Extratime.ie team for the 2012 season. He is a Dublin based freelance reporter who is partial to a Friday in Richmond Park, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter at @damienbyrne92