St Patrick's Athletic clinically punished Shamrock Rovers' defensive frailties to score twice inside three minutes to sit pretty on top of the Airtricty League Premier Division table on St. Patrick's Day.

Scarcely in the match in a one-sided first half, Saints took their chances through Ian Bermingham and Vinny Faherty in the second as title-hopefuls Rovers suffered an early home defeat which sees them already five points behind champions Bohemians.

Short up front in the absence of the injured Gary Twigg and Dessie Baker, Michael O’Neill, the Rovers’ manager, again strung five across midfield.

But it looked effective against Saints' midfield quartet as Rovers, with the strong wind at their backs, were first to every ball, exemplified early on when Stephen Bradley latched onto James Chambers’ poor corner to drill a shot straight at Gary Rogers.

Chambers ought then to have given Rovers’ bright start a reward on 15 minutes.

A mis-control by lone striker Graham Barrett presented the ball to the midfielder, who, courtesy of a deflection off defender Shane Guthrie, found himself in on goal.

But he wastefully blasted wide of Rogers’ right-hand post.

Rovers were very much in the ascendancy and a third corner from Chambers allowed Rogers redeem his mistake that conceded it with a flying save from Craig Sives’ header.

But it was a dominance they failed to carry that into the second half with the stiff breeze in their faces.

Bradley tried to ignite the home fires with an encouraging run and shot that flew wide.

That would be as good as it got for Rovers as Saints took the lead on 57 minutes.

A foul by Chambers on Dave Mulcahy out on the right didn’t appear to present a serious threat.

But Rovers failed to attack Bermingham’s inswinging delivery into their box and the left-back, who played with Rovers last year, saw the ball bounce past Alan Mannus with no-one getting a touch.

Static defending was again punished on the hour.

This time visiting skipper Damian Lynch whipped in a free-kick towards the near post where Faherty arrived to head past Mannus.

Apart from a pitch incursion by an irate Hoops fan, who confronted Rogers before being ushered away, Rovers struggled to seriously threaten the visitors goal in the whole of the second half as the Saints ran down the clock.

Shamrock Rovers: Mannus; Flynn, Sives, Murray, Murphy; Kavanagh (O‘Connor, 75 mins.), Chambers, Rice (Bayly, 68 mins.), Bradley (Cahill, 63 mins.), Dennehy; Barrett.

St. Patrick’s Athletic: Rogers; Lynch, Kenna, Guthrie, Bermingham; McAllister, S. Byrne, Mulcahy, Guy; Faherty, Williams (P. Byrne, 90+1 mins.).

Referee: Declan Hanney (Dublin).