SSE Airtricity League Report: Patrick’s magic downs the Saints as Dundalk rediscover winning touch
SSE Airtricity League Premier Division:
Dundalk 3-0 St. Patrick’s Athletic
By Caoimhín Reilly
Ancient mythology would have you believe that Patrick, prior to becoming a patron saint, was a guy who despised captivity, instead preferring to pursue his own free spirit.
And, although by no means a mystical creature, the same traits seem to be apply to Dundalk’s very own superhero Patrick McEleney.
Starved, almost sacrificed, in wider berths and on treatment tables for a chunk of last season while watching Daryl Horgan nab the headlines, the Derry magician looks a cut above anyone in Irish football at present.
Stephen Kenny has heralded the Foyleside native throughout his spell with Dundalk and even compared him to one of the league’s finest in Paddy McCourt recently.
Kenny is a fair judge of a player, having nurtured many of the league’s top exports and on tonight’s evidence he may well be fostering a talent that is destined for the top.
A brace and an ingenious assist for Ciaran Kilduff’s opener only tells half the story. It was almost as if McEleney wore a ‘hazardous’ sign across his chest as St. Patrick’s Athletic never laid a finger on him for the entire evening.
He opened proceedings by going on a mazy, jinking run and ended it amongst a glut of Dundalk players steaming forward in search of a fourth.
In between he was pretty special too. His first goal may well have topped his goal of the season contenders from this past two weeks’. It arrived after he bore a gap down the right side of the St. Pats defence with an incisive dart before dinking to the far corner with nonchalance. It was Cantonaesque.
While his second saw him tease a stretched St. Pats defence before rolling the ball agonisingly along the surface and into the corner of the net to bring Oriel Park to its feet, the deafening noise was a mixture of disbelief and delight alike.
Even the man himself couldn’t describe what he had done in the aftermath, it was just instinctive.
Kenny had decided prior to the season kicking off that McEleney was going to be his chief playmaker from the number 10 position, a decision which he is reaping the dividends of at present.
Another choice of his was to drop Gabriel Sava to the bench, in favour of Gary Rogers, which proved a shrewd move with Rogers kept Christy Fagan, Kurtis Byrne and the Inchicore men’s other sharpshooters at bay on what was a straight forward night for the Meath man.
Elsewhere, the defence were strong with Brian Gartland and Paddy Barrett shepherding the rear guard with consummate ease, although it did take the full-backs, Dane Massey in particular, time to adjust to the 3-5-2 formation of the visitors, which often changed to five across the back when under the cosh.
Liam Buckley’s men were organised to frustrate the hosts before performing a smash and grab at the other end, and that plan almost came together when Gavin Peers forced Rogers into a save after 11 minutes.
Michael Duffy was electric down the left and created chances at will, although when played through by Benson early on he saw his clipped effort stopped by the advancing Conor O’Malley to keep proceedings deadlocked.
Sean Gannon, Kilduff and McEleney all tried their luck to no avail as half-time loomed until Duffy’s cross, McEleney’s flick and Kilduff’s tidy finish changed the complexion of the game completely on 44 minutes.
The difference between going to the break level and trailing by Kilduff’s third of the season were realms apart for the visitors as McEleney ruled the roost after half-time with his two goals ending matters across a deadly six-minute spell
For the remainder, Dundalk dominated, threatening to run riot as they continued to pour forward in search of more.
St. Pats came close in the dying embers with Fagan and Byrne unleashing efforts, but the result was never in doubt.
Dundalk: Gary Rogers; Séan Gannon, Brian Gartland, Paddy Barrett, Dane Massey; Conor Clifford (Chris Shields 69), Robbie Benson; John Mountney (Jamie McGrath 80), Patrick McEleney, Michael Duffy; Ciaran Kilduff (David McMillan 76)
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava (gk), Niclas Vemmelund, Séan Hoare, Thomas Stewart
St. Patrick’s Athletic: Conor O’Malley; Michael Barker, Rory Feely, Gavin Peers (Conan Byrne 57), Darren Dennehy, Ian Bermingham; Jonathan Lunney, Lee Desmond, Alex O’Hanlon; Josh O’Hanlon (Kurtis Byrne 57), Christy Fagan
Subs not used: Pat Jennings (gk), Patrick Cregg, Graham Kelly, Sam Verdon, Billy Dennehy
Booked: Fagan (45)
Referee: Graham Kelly
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Patrick McEleney – What more is there to add. A special player.