Saints finally march again as Fagan’s double ends 53-year cup wait

Two recent final defeats to Derry City avenged at the Aviva Stadium

Derry City 0 St Patrick's Athletic 2

In a league the size of Ireland’s and with the Dubliners generally up there amongst the better teams, sometimes the best, St Patrick’s Athletic’s long run without a cup success has sometimes felt like one of football’s great long-shots.

The odds, though, could only keep lengthening for so long and finally, at the eighth attempt, Liam Buckley's men cast off the club's curse at the Aviva stadium where two goals from Christy Fagan meant the trophy would go to Inchicore for a third time, some 53 years after it last swung by the place.

Amongst those with long associations with the club the goal that put the result beyond doubt late in added time sparked an uncontrollable outpouring of joy and Brian Kerr looked briefly as though he might fall off the front of the west stand's upper deck he was celebrating so much.


For Fagan, there must have been a tiny bit of relief too for almost every chance his side had over the course of this game fell to him and had City fought their way back into things after his first, as they certainly threatened to do during the last half an hour, the striker might have become a leading character in the latest chapter of the club’s apparently never ending take of cup woe.

Instead, his name will go down its history as the man put an end to the suffering with the 25 year-old’s goals at the start and end of the second period enough to put the game beyond a City side who just weren’t quite good enough to live with their rivals on the day.

The Dubliners had edged the first half in terms of both possession and chances created, but not by much. In midfield, Keith Fahey and co found life difficult as City worked hard to close them down and a couple of Fagan's best chances to open the scoring came courtesy of long passes from Sean Hoare, one through the opposition defence, one over it, neither of which was controlled quite well enough by the lone striker.

Fagan did force one really good save from Ger Doherty over the course of those first 45 minutes and he narrowly missed the target too with a left-footed half volley that followed a prolonged scramble on the edge of the Derry area, but the City goalkeeper should have been busier and would have been had the passing from Fahey and Greg Bolger not repeatedly asked too much of the men in front.

City, for their part, created a couple of half chances that were headed well off target, while Pat McEleney might have done better had he not been a full stretch when attempting to volley a flick on Doherty kick-out.

Peter Hutton’s thinking might well have been to have his men keep it tight, then look to grab something late on, but it was clear as the second half got under that they were living ever more dangerously.

St Patrick’s looked increasingly dominant and it seemed only a matter of time before a side whose stock in trade over the past couple of seasons had been swiftly moving the ball through midfield and into the danger area, finally strung something together.

Sure enough, after 52 minutes, last year’s league champions got their noses in front.

Bolger got them moving forward in midfield when he won the ball well but the alarm bells much have been ringing on the Derry bench from the moment Conan Byrne's first time onward ball sent Fahey racing into space. His angled cross looked too deep for Fagan, who still seemed to squander a half decent shooting chance, but after taking a couple of touches and taking the ball a few yards to his right, the striker then got very lucky with his attempt on the turn, clipping the inside of Ryan McBride's ankle as the defender tried to close his legs and then hopelessly wrong-footing Danny Ventre who surely should have done better as the ball slipped past him then in off the post.

St Patrick’s, of course, had led the last two cup finals in which they had played Derry but still lost both games and there was nothing terribly secure about their lead here. There could have been, though, if Fagan had scored a second after City had been dispossessed on the edge of their opponents’ area, Fahey had run the length of the pitch and teed up the striker with a low, diagonal ball that deserved a better finish.

Having been engaging but far from great for the most part, the game, at least, was getting one now thanks to the northerners' need to score. Patterson provided a reminder of how sharp he can be around the area by latching on to a McEleney ball and firing narrowly over. He went closer again with a header a little while later and in between, Barry McNamee, on for the injured McBride, really should have scored after Philip Lowry had turned a looping cross from the right neatly into his path barely 10 metres out.

They maintained the pressure but struggled to create another chance like that with with Hoare and Kenny Browne happy to hoof away the danger when required and Brendan Clarke gathering most everything that came his way very comfortably without having to make a save of note.

Still City plugged away as the minutes slipped by and their opponents looked increasingly confident that they could hang on. That, though, was put beyond any doubt in the dying seconds when Hoare hit a long, high ball that Barry Molloy tried but failed to play back to Doherty and Fagan pounced to get his second goal of the game, his 27th of the season in all competitions.

City knew then they were beaten then and all around the stadium, the Dubliners knew they had won and the game was scarcely restarted when the final whistle went. Buckley and his players had, just as he said they might, made their own history.

DERRY CITY: Doherty; Ventre, McBride (McNamee, 64 mins), Barry, Jarvis; Dooley, Lowry, Molloy; P McEleney (Houston, 90+1 mins), Patterson, Duffy.

ST PATRICK'S ATHLETIC: Clarke; O'Brien (McCormack, 80 mins), Hoare, Browne, Bermingham; Fahey (Chambers, 90+4 mins), Bolger; Byrne, Brennan, Forrester (Fitzgerald 90+1 mins); Fagan.

Referee: P Sutton (Clare).

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times