Saints off to a flyer in the league with win over Shels
St Patrick’s Athletic enjoyed a dream start to the new SSE Airtricity League Premier Division season by securing a 3-0 victory at the expense of Dublin rivals Shelbourne in Tolka Park last night.
In what was Tim Clancy’s first top-flight game as manager, Darragh Burns, Mark Doyle and Jason McClelland all rattled the net to ensure the Saints bounced back from a penalty shootout defeat to Shamrock Rovers in the President’s Cup last week to claim all three points on offer.
This game was also a big occasion for Ballyboden native Damien Duff, who was taking charge of Shels for the first time in a competitive fixture.
While the final result flattered Pat’s to a degree, there are some areas that Duff will be looking to work on as he aims to keep the newly-promoted Drumcondra men in the Premier Division.
Following a loose pass by opposition player Daniel Hawkins in the 19th-minute, Burns picked up possession in an advanced position and unleashed an unstoppable strike beyond the reach of netminder Lewis Webb.
In stark contrast to vastly-experienced Pat’s centre-forward Eoin Doyle – playing in the League of Ireland for the first time since 2011 – the Udinese-bound James Abankwah (18) and Burns (19) are still learning their way in the game.
That said, Burns already has 40 first-team appearances under his belt and was close to grabbing his second goal of the tie in the 37th-minute.
Pat’s had some work to do on the resumption despite being 1-0 in front, but they subsequently doubled their lead just shy of the hour mark.
Joining his namesake Eoin in attack, Mark Doyle drove forward into the Shels half before evading a number of challenges and firing home his first goal for the club.
The Saints were now playing with supreme confidence and former Rangers winger Billy King – now in his third season at the Inchicore outfit – was desperately unfortunate to see his 63rd-minute effort crashing off the crossbar,
However, there was further joy for Pat’s in the closing minutes as Mark Doyle capped a fine display – player of the match Chris Forrester was also outstanding – by delivering a neat pull-back for McClelland to sweep home from close-range.