If this is a sign of what Stephen O'Donnell and Pat Cregg will bring to St Patrick's Athletic, there are bright days ahead in Dublin 8 as they nullified a frustrated Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght.

Dundalk could now win the title Monday evening by beating Rovers, whose eyes are now on the FAI Cup, whilst Pat's fans will be thinking of next season with a renewed confidence that is far from misplaced. They remain very much in the hunt for European football.

Patrick's were tactically excellent but more impressive was their work-rate all over the park and they limited Rovers to precious few chances, albeit without being especially potent at the other end.

This will prompt some reflection among the Rovers coaching staff as they were made to look fairly one-dimensional by a Saints team for whom Ciaran Kelly was outstanding. However, they defended very well too as the game went on.


Patrick's, with three at the back, made a really impressive start and had two shouts for penalties within five minutes, Ian Bermingham going down latterly. Bermingham had been found by a superb flick from the returning Mikey Drennan towards the conclusion of a delightful Saints passing sequence.

Saints continued on top and Lee Desmond forced an admittedly comfortable Alan Mannus save on 11 minutes after being teed up by Cian Coleman.

Mannus made a superb left-hand save from Kevin Toner on 17 minutes. Drennan broke for the visitors, brilliantly delayed on the ball before finding the left back, who probably should have scored.

Aaron Greene was Rovers' main threat, having the measure of Ciaran Kelly in the pace stakes, and he pulled a shot just wide shortly afterwards, the crowd ever more enthralled.

Perhaps surprisingly, Rovers went with three at the back too, and they looked uncomfortable at times, their midfield totally outplayed in the game's opening quarter.

Rovers enjoyed their best spell about the half-hour mark, shortly after which Dylan Watts found Graham Burke whose shot was blocked.

Burke and Greene were Rovers' chief dangers in the first half, the former finding the latter whose stinging drive was parried by Clarke. From Jack Byrne's corner, Roberto Lopes headed wide.

Rovers' best passage of the game came on 52 minutes, Byrne finding Sean Kavanagh with a stunning pass matched in quality by the Ringsend man's control; Clarke was relatively untroubled by the shot.

Rovers came very close to taking the lead after Lee Grace's header produced a brilliant Clarke save following a superb Byrne free-kick delivery on 58 minutes. Rovers then appealed for  penalty when the ball connected with a Pat's arm, that of Cian Coleman, in the box; it would have been a harsh penalty.

Grace remained a threat, forcing Clarke to smother his shot after the net-minder had spilled a Byrne free-kick.

Byrne was growing in influence, attracting some tough Pat's challenges. The Irish international nevertheless kept trying to probe.

Rovers' best opening came on 82 minutes, Clarke brilliantly blocking from Sean Kavanagh after excellent work from substitute Thomas Oluwa. Kavanagh should have scored, but it was that type of night for the green and white.

Indeed, a Roberto Lopes snap-shot went just wide in injury time, Rovers having gotten a corner-kick that looked a definite goal-kick; it would have been cruel on the gutsy visitors.

Shamrock Rovers: Mannus; Boyle, Grace, Lopes, Lafferty, S Kavanagh; Watts (McEneff 61), Bolger (O'Neill 71), Byrne, Burke; Greene (Oluwa 76).

St Pat's: Clarke; Webster, Toner, Kelly, Bermingham (Doona 71); Clarke, Coleman, McCabe (Forrester 39), Desmond, Markey (McAuley 81); Drennan.

Referee: Rob Harvey.