Byrne hits four as St Patrick’s Athletic blow away challenge of nine-man Rovers
Conan Byrne scored four times as leaders St Pat’s blasted away the challenge of nine-man Shamrock Rovers and continued their pursuit of a first league title in over a decade.
Byrne put Pat’s ahead on five minutes before Rovers had Derek Foran sent off for a push on Anto Flood.
Byrne netted the subsequent penalty and scored from the spot again on 56 minutes after a Ronan Finn foul on Chris Forrester that came after Sean O’Connor had been sent off for a tackle on Forrester.
Byrne scored his fourth from close range just after the hour-mark.
St Pat’s began this pulsating Dublin derby in strong form and took the lead on five minutes with their first attack on the Rovers goal.
Foran could have done better when a long ball was directed out to Byrne on the right of the Rovers penalty area. The ball bounced perfectly for Byrne, who was allowed to cut in unchallenged and curl the ball beyond the reach of Rovers goalkeeper Richard Brush.
Forrester went close to doubling the lead on 16 minutes at the end of a brilliant move that started with Flood playing in Byrne, who in turn passed to Ian Bermingham. The Pat’s defender picked out Forrester with a pin-point ball before Forrester let fly from 18 yards out, his effort grazing the post as it flashed wide.
O’Connor then wasted a free-kick on 17 minutes which floated harmlessly wide of the Pat’s goal but went much closer with a powerful header from a Danny Ledwith cross on 21 minutes that went inches wide.
Plenty of chances
It was end to end stuff, with both sides having plenty of chances. Byrne fired wide for Pat’s on 23 minutes after good work from Forrester and Flood, while Karl Sheppard headed wide for Rovers on 32 minutes from an excellent Gary McCabe cross.
But Rovers then found themselves further behind and a man down on 33 minutes when Foran was dismissed by referee Anthony Buttimer following a push on Flood inside the box.
The incident came after Foran had lost possession of the ball to Flood who was then denied by Brush.
Buttimer pointed to the spot and following a short delay, due to protests from Rovers players, Byrne stepped up and slotted the ball past Brush.
McCabe had been very effective for Rovers but he was replaced by David Elebert, with manager Trevor Croly changing his side’s shape in what looked like a damage-limitation exercise.
Brush didn’t reappear for the second half and was replaced by Barry Murphy, who made a good save from Ger O’Brien on 52 minutes following a cheeky back heel from Byrne.
Reduced to nine men
Rovers were then reduced to nine men on 53 minutes when O’Connor was given his marching orders for a rough tackle on Forrester, before falling further behind on 56 minutes. Forrester was hacked down in the penalty area by Finn with Byrne beating Murphy from the spot.
The tide was fully with Pat’s now and Byrne added his fourth on 62 minutes from close range after Flood had been initially denied by Murphy at his near post following a Stephen Maher cross from the left.
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Brush (Murphy h/t); McCormack, Sullivan, Foran, Ledwith; O’Connor, Finn, Ryan, Robinson, McCabe (Elebert 36 mins); Sheppard (Dennehy 77 mins).
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Clarke; O’Brien, Kenna, Browne, Bermingham; Byrne, Maher (Gannon 67 mins), Russell, Bolger, Forrester (Kavanagh 78 mins); Flood (Fagan 67 mins).
Referee: A Buttimer (Cork).