St Patrick's Athletic 0 Sligo Rovers 2
It remains hard to fathom quite how a Sligo side that still contains a sprinkling of the group that won the title just three years ago and some talented newer arrivals, has found itself battling relegation for much of this season. That, at least, came to an end here where a win over St Patrick's sent them three points and an awful lot of goals clear of the play-off place.
Rovers, to be fair, have been struggling to find their form all season. Their hosts, who won the league 12 months later and the cup since then, had spells through the early part of this campaign when they still looked as though they could be contenders. That faded fast enough, though, and of late they have lost their way completely. This defeat, their fifth in seven games, leaves them still in need of something in Galway next week if they are to be sure of the place in Europe.
As they had against Cork on Monday night, they had generally the better of things this time out and certainly created enough chances to get something out the game. In the end, though, a stunning first-half save by Richard Brush from Christy Fagan and Dinny Corcoran's two goals were the difference between the sides with the striker coming off the bench in the second half to score the brace that secured the points.
At the final whistle Sligo’s players celebrated their survival and the travelling fans enthusiastically cheered them off.
Following the relief there is bound to be a determination that this simply can’t happen again next year at a club that is supposed to be amongst the country’s most professional.
It will be interesting to hear when the dust settles what Micky Adams made of the last few months for the challenge at the Showgrounds must have been different in ways to anything he had ever experienced before. Certainly, having to deal with the discovery that at a time of crisis his top scorer was also playing intermediate Gaelic football (as the Englishman apparently did over the past week or so when Corcoran's exploits for St Patrick's of Donabate in the Dublin championship became known) was most likely a new experience for the 53-year-old.
Corcoran, the club’s top scorer with 10 before last night, had been a starter in each of the club’s last eight outings but he began this game on the bench.
Without him, the visitors looked toothless up front with some spells of decent build-up work producing little by way of clear-cut chances in the opening hour bar a Sander Puri header that flew narrowly wide.
However Sligo’s need for points was great and Adams turned to the former Bohemians striker after 57 minutes.
Seven later he put the visitors in front when Jennison Myrie-Williams’ shot from a tight angle was deflected up into the air before the Dubliner did well to head it home.
Cue one-liners about Corcoran goals being worth three points no matter what the sport although the 26-year-old quickly undermined those by getting a second, this time from the penalty spot as Myrie-Williams waltzed forward almost unchallenged from inside his own half and was then taken down by Conor O’Malley who was very lucky to stay on the pitch.
Corcoran nearly got his hat-trick with a shot on the turn that flew low across goal but his manager was happy enough with his night’s work.
“He’s been in great form for the Bit o’Red and for his GAA team,” he said. “People have been asking if I disciplined him but the truth is I haven’t. I just reminded him that the football club comes first and I’m delighted for him tonight.
“I’m delighted for the players and the people of Sligo too that we’ve won enough games and taken enough points to secure our Premier Division status for next year. It’s a massive achievement from my point of view and there have been some talks (about staying on) but I’ve my family to think of and I’ll make a decision on whether I’ll go back to England when the season’s over.”
ST PATRICK'S ATHLETIC: O'Malley; O'Brien, Hoare, McEleney, Bermingham; Brennan, Chambers; Byrne (Desmond, 78 mins), McGrath, Greene; Fagan.
SLIGO ROVERS: Brush; Boylan, Peers, Keane, Ledwith; Cawley, Ward; Myrie-Williams (Keating, 90 mins), Cretaro (Corcoran, 57 mins), Puri; Nielsen (Devaney, 80 mins).
Referee: A Buttimer (Cork)