Macdara Ferris reports from Richmond Park
St. Patrick’s Athletic eased into the semi-final of the FAI Cup with a 3-0 win over Wexford in Inchicore on Friday night.
Darragh Burns grabbed a brace and substitute Ronan Coughlan scored an injury time penalty as the Athletic made it three wins out of three against First Division opposition in the cup this season, reaching the last four for the first time in five years.
While Wexford are the bottom side in the second tier of the League of Ireland, Ian Ryan’s men made it difficult for the Saints at times and were helped by an early sending off that gave Wexford a man advantage from the seventh minute for most of the first half.
There has been much discussion about the match officiating in recent weeks and Derek Tomney was centre stage once again handing out two red cards in the first half.
However, the decisions seemed to be correct with Saints player Sam Bone sent off early on for a last-man tackle gone wrong while Wexford’s Conor Crowley picked up his second yellow four minutes from half time.
While the teams were level numerically going off at the break, it was the home side who had the lead. Burns gave the home team the scoreboard advantage when he slotted the ball through the legs of Jimmy Corcoran on 34 minutes after he raced onto Billy King’s pinpoint pass.
His team had started the game well with Ian Bermingham whipping in a couple of crosses from the left that caused the visitors difficulties.
Jack Moylan was leading the line for Wexford and it was his checked run from Bone that saw Tomney produce his first red card of the night.
Lorcan Fitzgerald found Paul Cleary at the back post from the resulting free but he couldn’t trouble Viteslav Jaros with his header.
Jamie Lennon dropped back into the Pat’s back four after the red card and the Saints took some time to settle back into the game after the sending off.
However, Wexford were wasteful in front of goal with Karl Fitzsimons dragging his shot wide and Fitzgerald hitting his shot straight at the Saints netminder when he got sight of the goal.
The Pat’s fans, their bench and the players on the pitch were all shouting for a penalty kick when Matty Smith went down in the box on 20 minutes but Tomney let the game flow much to the chagrin of those of a St. Pat’s persuasion.
It was a studs up challenge on Matty Smith that earned Crowley his second yellow card at the end of the first half and he certainly felt hard done by with his dismissal.
We could easily have had another red early in the second period as Paddy Barrett, already booked, took down Karl Fox as he went by him on the wing. This time Tomney kept his card in his pocket.
Just after the hour mark, the Saints doubled their lead with Burns on the scoresheet once again, running on to beat Corcoran with a low drive into the left hand corner of the goal.
The second goal knocked the stuffing out of the visitors and Pat’s were happy to pass the ball around helped by the extra space on the pitch allowing them to hold onto possession with relative ease.
Paul Cleary took down Forreester deep in injury time to earn himself a yellow card and a Pats penalty - one that Coughlan duly dispatched to wrap up the win.
The Saints can put the thoughts of the Aviva Stadium in the back of the minds for the time being as attention turns to the visit of league leaders Shamrock Rovers to Richmond Park next week when a win would bring St. Pat’s level on points at the top of the table.
St. Patrick's Athletic: Vitezslav Jaros; Jak Hickman, Sam Bone, Paddy Barrett (James Abankwah 89), Ian Bermingham (c);Chris Forrester, Jamie Lennon, Ben McCormack; Darragh Burns, Matty Smith (Rónán Coughlan 72), Billy King (Alfie Lewis 62).
Subs not used: Barry Murphy, Shane Griffin, Jason McClelland, Kian Corbally, Kyrian Nwoko, Nahum Melvin-Lambert.
Booked: Paddy Barrett (8).
Sent off: Sam Bone (7).
Wexford: Jimmy Corcoran; Kevin McEvoy, Lorcan Fitzgerald, Paul Cleary; Thomas Considine (Daniel Dobbin 88), Jack Moylan (Luke Scanlon 90+5), Harry Groome (Ayman Yousif 88), Paul Fox; Karl Fitzsimons (Jack Connolly 87), Karl Manahan (Evan Farrell 68), Conor Crowley.
Subs not used: Sean Martin, Fionn McCaffrey, Andrew Farrell, Tyler Dunphy.
Booked: Conor Crowley (33 and 41) Paul Fox (38), Paul Cleary (90+3).
Sent off: Conor Crowley (41).
Referee: Derek Tomney .
Attendance: 1,500 (estimate)
extratime.com Player of the Match: Darragh Burns (St. Patrick’s Athletic)