Thursday 9th July 2015 ko 19.45
Europa League 1st Qualifying Round 2nd Leg
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC 0
SKONTO RIGA 2 (Sorokins 37 Karasavkas 59p)
Skonto win 4-1 on aggregate
Entry €15 (c £10.59)
St Pats have their own seagull. That’s right, a seagull and she sits atop a floodlight casting a beady eye on proceedings below, and isn’t adverse to attacking visitors who she thinks are threatening her nest in the stand. Richmond Park is in the Inchicore (in gaelic “Island of Sheep”) suburb in the west of Dublin, and is named after the former British army base here. Nearby is the preserved Kilmainham Jail where several members of the 1916 Rising were executed.
With that in mind a group of British visitors could have been forgiven for expecting a less than fulsome welcome, in fact the exact opposite was the case. We headed to the ground early straight after our early morning flight, to buy our match tickets, and were invited back for a stadium tour later in the day, and found the club’s own pub the “Tom Tavey” to be equally welcoming. Obviously a knowledge of Irish history is a help, and the ability also to leave politics at home.
In fact the only politics that really seemed to rankle with the League of Ireland clubs we visited was the perception that British clubs seem to “steal” the best of Irish youth. That is clearly a “Chicken and egg” situation, and one seemingly without an obvious solution, but a visit on Sunday to the Mayo League saw an interesting take on the problem.
St Pats are the SV Hamburg of the Irish League in that they’ve never been relegated from the top flight. However there’s no clock recording the fact at their home, the tight ground in places giving the impression that you’re walking through someone’s alleyway to reach it. The main stand assuming the seagull lets you in dominates the ground, with the only other area of cover being the part covered terrace behind one goal.
One tip for those visiting here for higher-profile games is to get there early. The tickets for the main stand are sold on a “General Admission” basis so it pays to be early enough to get a good seat. Given that UEFA rules reduced the capacity from the normal 5,340 down to the 2,800 seats with a few more lost for segregation it proved to be a good move.
Trailing 2-1 from the Latvian leg, St Pats needed early impetus to swing the tie their way. However Christy Fagan looked isolated up front, and despite plenty of possession they looked frustrated and you worried at the visitors ability to hit them on the counter. That is precisely what happened, Edgars Jermolajevs’ looping cross from the right found Vladislavs Sorokins unmarked at the back post, and he headed across keeper Brendan Clarke to open the scoring.
Still St Pats dominated possession but chances were at a premium, and Skonto were happy to press in midfield, stifling the hosts and hitting them on occasional breakaways.
Lee Desmond looked a little unlucky to be adjudged to have handled a cross, but Arturs Karasavkas’ penalty put the tie beyond the Dubliners and the Latvians into a second round tie with Debrecen of Hungary.
I watched the two sets of supporters slowly fade in to the night, and made for Dublin College University. There was much to consider over, what else, a Guinness.