Cliftonville ran out comprehensive winners at Solitude on Monday night as St Patrick's Athletic's interest in the 2011 Setanta Cup was all but ended in a game they scarcely deserved to lose.
St Patrick's Athletic set about this Setanta Cup tie with all the enthusiasm of a side that are on the cusp of a brave new season. They ran the midfield area with authority and were dangerous down the flanks with Daryl Kavanagh in particular causing problems for the Cliftonville defence.
Evan McMillan headed a corner narrowly over the home crossbar as early as the second minute and Kavanagh scuffed an effort from six yards out having been cleverly impeded by Barry Holland in the tenth.
In the 15th minute Paul Crowley sent a looping header to the back post where Danny North hooked a shot back from the byline and goalkeeper John Connolly was as surprised to make the save as North was to see his effort denied.
Then, on the half hour mark, George McMullan found some space twenty yards from the St Pats goal and placed a finely weighted shot beyond Gary Rogers and just inside the post. Totally against the flow of the game the home side were ahead.
St Pats came back at their hosts with conviction and five minutes later Connolly dived full length to flick North's shot around his left outside the post but if the Dublin side imagined that an equaliser was coming then Mark Holland had other ideas.
Three minutes from the break he bundles a McMullan corner over the line from close range and without having done too much wrong Pete Mahon's men were looking at a two goal deficit.
Within four minutes of the restart that deficit had risen to three as George McMullan edged forwards and, not meeting any kind of challenge, loosed off a shot that deflected off Evan McMillan's back and past a wrong footed Gary Rogers.
That seemed to knock a good deal out of the stuffing out of St Pats and Cliftonville enjoyed a period of dominance which the scoreline might wrongly have indicated was their right. McMullen wriggled and turned and flashed off the occasional shot while the home defence were allowed some rare peace of mind.
It was not until Jordan Keegan entered the fray in the 69th minute that the Inchicore men managed to rejuvenate their flagging mojo. The youngster was on the pace from the moment he took to the field and along with Kavanagh's energy the visitors regained some measure of control.
As time ran out Pats continued to search out the goal that might restore some pride and substitute Sean Stewart had a fierce low shot blocked away by Connolly after a Derek Pender cross had caused mayhem in the Cliftonville box.
The consolation goal that their overall performance deserved never came and, while Cliftonville enjoyed a more comprehensive winning margin than the balance of play merited, Pete Mahon will be looking for a more ruthless performance and for pride to be restored at Richmond Park next Tuesday week.