St Pat’s clinch FAI Cup glory on penalties to leave Bohs heartbroken

Robbie Benson scores the winning spot kick after Rory Feely had equalised in extra-time

St Patrick’s Athletic’s Ian Bermingham and Ronan Coughlan celebrate winning the FAI Cup on penalties against Bohemians. Photo: Evan Treacy/Inpho

St Patrick’s Athletic’s Ian Bermingham and Ronan Coughlan celebrate winning the FAI Cup on penalties against Bohemians. Photo: Evan Treacy/Inpho

 

Bohemians 1 St Patrick’s Athletic 1 (St Pat’s win 4-3 on penalties)

Robbie Benson drilled the winning spot kick in a penalty shootout as St Patrick’s Athletic captured the FAI Cup in front of a record 37,126 crowd on Lansdowne Road.

In a cruel yet thrilling finish, Bohemians will regret the chances they had to snatch victory, and qualify for Europe, with Ross Tierney and Stephen Mallon drawing sensational saves from Vitezslav Jaros, the Czech goalkeeper on loan from Liverpool, in the final seconds of extra-time.

Jak Hickman’s dramatic goal line clearance also denied Rory Feely a second headed goal.

To penalties, and Bohs were on course for their first cup success since 2008 when James Talbot got down to Chris Forrester’s strike but Tyreke Wilson shot wide and after Keith Ward slammed the crossbar, Benson stepped up to finish into the St Pat’s end.

They fully deserve the bragging rights of Dublin clubs between the canals despite being unable to fashion the number of chances that Bohs created but Forrester’s goal at the end of the first half of extra-time deserved to win any game. Having evaded a visibly jaded Keith Buckley, he took off on a mazy run, toying with the tracking Promise Omochere before unleashing a sweet shot.

St Pat’s fans celebrate after Forrester’s opener. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
St Pat’s fans celebrate after Forrester’s opener. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Feely equalised 90 seconds into the second period of extra time with a bullet header off Ward’s perfect corner to the front post.

“I thought when Chris scored we were going to hang on,” said Lee Desmond, the deserving man of the match on a night of defensive excellence. “They are good at set pieces and Rory got across me for the goal and I was going ‘please please don’t let that be the reason why we lose the cup final.’”

It wasn’t.

The opening 45 minutes reflected both clubs’ League of Ireland campaigns as an old adage rang true with St Pat’s playing the game while Bohemians struggled with the occasion.

And what an occasion it was, sparking memories of that night in 2004 when clubs from all over the country filled Lansdowne Road to support Shelbourne against Deportivo La Coruna.

Considering Bohs’ brave choice of pre-match suits, with matching creamy white trainers and t-shirts, and despite the swashbuckling runs of Motherwell-bound Tierney, the cup specialists of 2021 struggled to replicate their Europa nights at the Aviva.

St Pat’s witnessed all these ShowTime moments since the summer and quietly went about clinging to the coattails of Shamrock Rovers. And it showed in the opening half hour, as Talbot made two stops to keep Bohs afloat.

St Pat’s coach Stephen O’Donnell caught his opposite number Keith Long on the hop by clogging midfield to curb the creativity of 20-year-old Dawson Devoy. The 4-2-4 approach forced Bohs to reconfigure, which they did, but not before Jamie Lennon almost set fire to an already electric atmosphere.

Lennon slipped a pass into Darragh Burns, who let it run between his legs for the looping midfielder to unleash a low drive that Talbot’s strong arm pushed for a corner.

Rory Feely equalises for Bohs. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Rory Feely equalises for Bohs. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Forrester was also exploiting the usually solid Bohs system, drifting between the centre halves to force another save from Talbot, who recovered well despite a wicked deflection.

Benson was having the sort of joy down the left that Bohs’ Scottish wingers Ali Coote and Liam Burt usually produce.

It made sense watching St Pat’s stymie Bohs primary weapons. Georgie Kelly barely got a kick, and almost always with his back to goal, as the high press forced matters into a fascinating stalemate.

The fire brigade was kept busy throughout, removing flares, bangers and smoke bombs, as the Aviva morphed into La Bombonera for one night only.

Just as the contest began to flag on this massive field, Burt got free to switch play, only for Coote’s clean shot to be blocked by St Pat’s skipper Ian Bermingham. The rebound landed for Kelly, who again made decent contact, only for Jaros to bat away.

From the resulting corner Kelly lunged high, making poor contact and landing heavily on his troublesome calf.

Losing a 26-goal striker can never be described as a good omen but, as legs tired, Omochere, the 21-year-old power forward, began to profit from rapid counter attacks by Burt. One such sprint and cross evaded Omochere’s out stretched toe by a millimetre.

The last 20 minutes became a test of fitness as much as mental fortitude with the domino effect of cramp-delays prompting a roof of smoke to cover the pitch due to delirious antics by fans at either end.

All the game needed was a moment of majestic skill or sheer will to settle the first meeting of these Dublin neighbours in the cup final. We got both, Forester’s strike and Feely’s equaliser, before the agony and ecstasy of penalties fell kindly for St Pat’s.

Bohemians: Talbot; Lyons, Cornwall, C Kelly, Wilson; Buckley, Devoy; Burt, Tierney, Coote; G Kelly.

Subs: Omochere for G Kelly (61), Feely for C Kelly (76), Mallon for Coote (85), Ward for Burt (103), Levingston for Buckley (ht, et).

St Patrick’s Athletic: Jaros; Desmond, Bone, Bermingham, Lennon; Benson, Lewis, Forrester; Smith, Barrett, Burns.

Subs: King for Lennon (60), McClelland for Smith (76), Abankwah for Barrett (82) -Burt caught him, Hickman for Bone (96), Coughlan for Lewis (97).

Referee: Rob Hennessy.

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