St Patrick’s Athletic 4 Finn Harps 0
Liam Buckley’s side matched their biggest win of the season to plunge their opponents here back into the bottom three for the first time since late May.
The scoreline seemed a little harsh on Harps by the end but the Dubliners, for whom Kurtis Byrne got two after coming on in the 74th minute, certainly deserved a win that maintains the upward momentum they have managed to build in recent weeks.
With games against Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers and then Bohemians coming up in the league, some of the shine will be taken off the win, though, if the injury sustained by Owen Garvan just over an hour in turns out to be serious.
It certainly seemed to be at the time with the player giving the firm impression to medical staff that he was in a lot of pain as they prepared to carry him off the field.
At the final whistle, though, there was a sense of relief that Harps had finally been beaten. The Donegal men had won both of the previous meetings between the two sides this season and from the way the home side started the game it felt as though St Patrick’s might be intent on handing them the hat-trick.
Harps lacked the punch up front to make the most of the chances that came their way during those early exchanges but midfield then emerged as their most pressing problem with Paul O’Conor and Garvan passing their way through the blue shirts far too easily.
Up front, the locals had problems of their own with Christy Fagan having missed out through illness but his replacement, Josh O'Hanlon, looked lively and dangerous with Graham Kelly in the centre and Conan Byrne outside posing a persistent threat.
Their first attempt on goal came courtesy of Michael Barker who wasn't too far off the mark after being teed up by O'Conor. Kelly showed how it should be done in the 24th minute after the former Limerick midfielder found him in much the same position and the 25-year-old took a touch to sidestep a defender before coolly pushing the ball beyond Ciarán Gallagher and into the bottom left corner.
Little enough of what followed was quite so polished but it was entertaining stuff, at least in part because it took the home side so long to capitalise on their superiority and get the second goal that put the result beyond question.
They came close more than once with Ciarán Coll but it wasn't until Kurtis Byrne turned Billy Dennehy's cross home seven minutes from time that Harps actually looked beaten. Ollie Horgan will wonder how differently the closing stages might have panned out for his side if Eddie Dsane had headed Seán Houston's cross home instead of wide a few minutes before Byrne struck at the other end.
As it was, they were a bit of a disaster for the visitors with Dsane sent off, apparently for dissent, and Conan Byrne getting his side’s third of the night after linking up well with his namesake.
The substitute then rounded things off by getting his second four minutes into added time with a shot that took a deflection off Coll before flying into the top corner.
The Harps players looked shell shocked as their hosts celebrated yet again.
News of Sligo’s win at Turner’s Cross will not have helped and the prospect of facing Cork themselves on Monday night hardly seems the best way to lift their spirits.
ST PATRICK'S ATHLETIC: Murphy; Barker, Balk, Desmond, Bermingham; Garvan (Lunney, 67 mins), O'Conor; Byrne, Kelly, Dennehy (Markey, 90 mins); O'Hanlon (Byrne, 74 mins).
FINN HARPS: Gallagher, McNulty, Cantwell, Coll, Harkin; Boyle, Houston, Bonner (Morrissey, 68 mins), Timlin (McBride, 88 mins); Keita (Millien, 68 mins), Dsane.
Referee: R Harvey (Dublin).