Four goals from Conan Byrne gave St Patrick's Athletic an emphatic 4-0 victory over Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium on Friday night. In a dramatic game both Derek Foran and Sean O'Connor were sent off for the home team.
The visitors started much better than their opponents and they scored with their first chance after just five minutes. Derek Foran let the ball bounce and Conan Byrne took advantage. He gathered possession, raced towards goal and shot low into the corner of the net from about 12 yards out.
Shamrock Rovers did have a couple of opportunities in the space of 60 seconds soon after. First of all Ronan Finn volleyed over from about 10 yards out and shortly after Karl Sheppard hit a decent effort from outside the area that was just too high.
Rovers should have equalised in the 21st minute. New signing Richie Ryan played it to his left to Danny Ledwith. Ledwith put in a fine cross to the back post where Sean Connor rose highest but he headed over.
It was a very eventful first half and two minutes later at the other end Anto Flood played it in behind the Rovers defence. Man of the match Conan Byrne was one on one with Richard Brush but the former Shelbourne player fired wide.
The Hoops had another chance in the 32nd minute as Danny Ledwith played it to his left to Gary McCabe. McCabe's right foot cross was met by the head of Sheppard but the Rovers striker saw his headed effort end up on the wrong side of the post.
That miss was to prove very costly just a minute later. Anto Flood got the ball off Derek Foran and raced towards goal. Foran appeared to push Flood who still managed to get his shot away. Richard Brush made the save but referee Anthony Buttimer gave a penalty to St Pats and then sent off Foran. Conan Byrne sent Brush the wrong way from the spot to make it 2-0.
Things went from bad to worse for Trevor Croly's team in the 53rd minute. Chris Forrester raced towards goal with Sean O'Connor tracking him back. Forrester, who was still outside the area went down under a challenge from his former teammate and referee Buttimer gave a free-kick and sent off O'Connor as there was no covering defender.
The Saints took advantage against the nine men and went 3-0 up soon after as Conan Byrne took a quick free kick to Chris Forrester. Forrester found himself in space in the area but was fouled by Ronan Finn. Byrne stepped up to put the penalty into the corner of the net past substitute goalkeeper Barry Murphy for his hat-trick.
In the 63rd minute the visitors got their fourth and final goal of the match. Stephen Maher crossed from the right for Anto Flood to head goalward. Barry Murphy made the save low to his right but Byrne followed up to put it into the empty net.
Both Flood and Ian Bermingham were denied by fine saves from Murphy in the final quarter as Pats cruised to victory to maintain their one point lead over Dundalk at the top of the table.
Shamrock Rovers: Richard Brush (Barry Murphy 46): Conor McCormack, Derek Foran, Pat Sullivan, Conor McCormack: Sean O'Connor, Ronan Finn, Richie Ryan, Shane Robinson, Gary McCabe (David Elebert 36): Karl Sheppard (Billy Dennehy 77).
Subs not used: Conor Powell, Eamon Zayed, Nathan Browne, Mark Sandford.
Booked: Robinson (29), Sullivan (35), Finn (55).
Sent-off: Foran (34), O’Connor (53).
St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke: Ger O'Brien, Conor Kenna (c), Kenny Browne, Ian Bermingham: Conan Byrne, Greg Bolger, Stephen Maher (Sean Gannon 67), John Russell, Chris Forrester (Daryl Kavanagh 78): Anthony Flood (Christy Fagan 67).
Subs not used: Rene Gilmartin, Aidan Price, Lorcan Fitzgerald, Jake Kelly.
Booked: Kenna (30), Browne (93).
Referee: Anthony Buttimer.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Conan Byrne (St Patricks Athletic).