Fagan fires Pat’s win

by James Hendicott

ST PATRICK’S Athletic put themselves in pole position to progress in the Europa League first qualifying round first leg, as the Inchicore club saw of Luxembourg’s traditional powerhouse Jeunesse Esch by a goal to nil at Richmond Park on Tuesday evening.
The visitors have found themselves in European competition more than 35 times in their history and progressed through to a second opponent only once, and had openly admitted before the game that their core intent was to shut out the League of Ireland side and take their chances at home.
Pat’s quickly quashed that ambition. Christy Fagan scored the only goal of the game after 10 minutes, with Darren Dennehy having done the damage when he latched onto the Esch goalkeeper’s parry of his own shot to square for Fagan to head into an empty net.
The goal had been coming, and Pat’s early dominance continued with captain Ger O’Brien orchestrating some swift passing moves and Fagan seeing several other clear cut chances not quite connect, or fall straight in the arms of the visiting goalkeeper.
Esch’s only chance of note in the first half was a hairy moment for a set of home fans that have become slightly disillusioned with European football since a 2012 run rewarded them with a contest against Hannover ‘96. A round of defensive ping-pong off a late corner could have gone anywhere.
Things petered out in the second period. Sean Hoare had the ball in the Esch net midway through the half, only to see his goal chalked off for offside.
Pat’s created a range of decent half chances in particular from the wings, but weren’t quite able to grab the comfort of a two goal lead, with Dennehy forced to clear from behind his goalkeeper at the other end in the dying seconds to deny an unlikely equaliser for the passive away club.
The win ends a three game losing streak for Pat’s, who currently look an outside bet to return to Europe next season after less than impressive League of Ireland form.
While the 1-0 win wasn’t quite reflective of the dominance achieved by the Dubliners for much of the game, then, the visitors’ lacks of attacking flair and the absence of away goals to worry about for the return leg give Saints every reason to be confident.
The Richmond Park club travel to Luxembourg next Tuesday, with the reward of a trip to Belarus and a financial vital pay cheque of around €250,000 all in offering the incentive.

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