Joey O'Brien 70' -
Dave Donnelly reports from Tallaght Stadium
There were no fireworks on the pitch but Shamrock Rovers maintained their unbeaten league run on the day they were coronated champions at Tallaght Stadium.
A laboured performance on the field was soon forgotten off it as Ronan Finn lifted the Premier Division trophy aloft in front of the main stand in Tallaght.
That there were no fans there to see – bar a few dozen staff members and volunteers – but the celebrations were unabated as the captain presented his players with their winner’s medals.
Joey O’Brien’s late dismissal was the closest this game came to an explosive moment, but St Patrick’s Athletic couldn’t capitalise as they kept their slim chances of European qualification alive.
The visiting Saints lined up in a guard of honour for the newly-crowned champions ahead of kick-off but that was as much of an easy ride as Stephen O’Donnell’s side were prepared to give.
Pats were the better side for long portions of the game and will rue their lack of decisiveness in front of goal as they fired blanks for the tenth time in 17 games this season.
Both Georgie Kelly and Jordan Gibson had gilt-edged chances to move the Athletic within a point of fourth-placed Waterford but the lack of a clinical edge told once more.
In truth, for all their possession and positive passing during a tepid opening period, the Inchicore side didn’t create a clear opening until four minutes after the break.
Rovers, for their part, looked heavy-legged following their win on Sunday on a rain-sodden pitch away at Finn Harps, with little of their usual dynamism in attack on show.
Much of that can be put down to a driven and committed Saints side, who pressed from the front through the impressive Kelly and Robbie Benson.
They allowed the Rovers back three little time to build from the back but, having set up to frustrate, they too often failed to get bodies forward to support Kelly in the final third.
Indeed, it was Rovers who created the better openings in the first half, though the first, Dylan Watt’s 25-yard daisy-cutter, was straight at Pats keeper Brendan Clarke.
Rovers lost Graham Burke to injury and Jack Byrne made an ahead-of-schedule return from illness midway through the first half.
He dug out a dainty cross that may have led to the game’s opening goal on the half-hour, but Aaron Greene couldn’t quite jump high enough to connect with his head.
Aaron McEneff’s delightful through-ball should have provided the opener but, after cutting back to take Ian Bermingham out of the game, he curled wastefully wide.
The second half proved more eventful and the Athletic finally found the target when Benson slipped in Kelly, who got his shot away but left it too close to the towering Alan Mannus.
Rory Feely looked to have given Pats the lead on the hour when he arrived to meet an Ian Bermingham cross at the back post but Sean Kavanagh did just about enough to turn it behind.
As the tempo picked up, Byrne teed up Greene to test Brendan Clarke and, from a quick Saints break, Jordan Gibson should really have scored when played one-on-one with Mannus.
O’Brien saw red for a second bookable offence 20 minutes from time and Pats sensed their moment, Mannus beating a furiously-struck Benson away from goal.
McNally’s follow-up was turned over by Roberto Lopes and, from the ensuing corner, McEneff almost turned the ball into his own net, Mannus again alert to the danger.
Rovers could have won it late on as Byrne played a brilliant through-ball for Greene, but the uncharacteristically leaden-hooved striker was tracked down by the alert McNally.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Joey O’Brien, Lee Grace (Roberto Lopes 63), Liam Scales; Rhys Marshall (Danny Lafferty 63), Ronan Finn, Aaron McEneff, Dylan Watts, Sean Kavanagh; Graham Burke (Jack Byrne 24), Aaron Greene (Thomas Oluwa 87).
Subs not used: Leon Pohls (gk), Max Murphy, Dean Williams.
Booked: Joey O’Brien (11, 70), Aaron Greene (87).
Sent off: Joey O’Brien (70).
St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Rory Feely (Jason McClelland 85), Lee Desmond, Luke McNally, Ian Bermingham; Jamie Lennon, Chris Forrester, Robbie Benson; Jordan Gibson (Darragh Burns 80), Shane Griffin (Billy King 53), Georgie Kelly.
Subs not used: Conor Kearns (gk), James Doona, David Titov, Ben McCormack.
Booked: Jamie Lennon (90+1).
Referee: Sean Grant (Wexford).
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Robbie Benson (St Patrick’s Athletic).