Three was the magic number on Dublin's North side on Friday night. A bitterly cold three degrees, three magnificent goals and most importantly, three vital points. St Patrick's Athletic started the 2022 season in impressive style with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Dublin rivals Shelbourne at Tolka Park.
Darragh Burns' marvellous strike gave the Saints a 1-0 lead at the half time break, and further second half goals from Mark Doyle and substitute Jay McClelland gave St Pats a 3-0 victory on the opening night of the SSE Airtricity League.
It was a cold night in Tolka Park with freezing temperatures off the field, but on the field, it was very different with a tight, tense atmosphere with both sides working tirelessly on the battle field.
The sell out crowd led to a memorable atmosphere and with 800 St Pats fans in the Ballybough end of Tolka matched with a sold out home crowd, it was an exhilarant atmosphere for the opening night of the 2022 season.
The home side had the ball in the net in the opening minute when Daniel Hawkins whipped in a free kick into the danger area. Saints goalkeeper Joseph Anang made an excellent point blank save with the rebound falling kindly to Daniel Carr who bundled he ball over the net. However the linesman ruled the initial header from Aaron O'Driscoll offside and Carr's goal was ruled out, much to the relief of the visitors.
Four minutes later, Shelbourne went close again when Jack Moylan bounded down on goal but he dragged his shot wide of Anang's left hand post.
Despite a slow start, St Pats took the lead 18 minutes in, and it was worth the admission fee alone. Daniel Hawkins broke out of defence for Shelbourne, but his cross field pass was intercepted by Darragh Burns. Burns picked it up and ran at the defence before turning onto his trusted left foot and unleashing a thunderbolt from just outside the area, which flew into the top left corner to gift The Saints an early lead.
Chances did dry up for a period, but The Saints looked dangerous on the attack and 37 minutes in, it was Burns again who went close. Mark Doyle played a terrific ball across the field to pick out the teenager. He took it in his stride and tried curling his effort around the post with his left foot but it drifted agonisingly wide.
There were calls for a St Pats penalty when Mark Doyle looked to have been clipped as he closed in for a strike on goal minutes later, but referee Rob Hennessy waved the protests away and pointed for a goal kick.
It proved to be the final action of a first half that saw limited chances but The Saints were the happier side carrying a one goal lead into the break.
Shelbourne looked lively in the opening exchanges of the second half as Damien Duff's side went in search of an equaliser. Daniel Carr did force Anang into action four minutes after the restart, but it proved to be a comfortable save as Carr failed to direct his effort away from Anang.
Moments later, Carr turned provider and he delivered an inviting cross into the St Pats penalty area. His cross found Daniel Hawkins who connected first time, but once again he was unable to direct it away from Anang as he saved comfortably.
Despite the Shelbourne chances, it was The Saints who doubled their lead on the 59th minute mark. Mark Doyle capitalised on a mis-placed pass at the back. He raced onto it, dummying his way past two defenders before eventually pulling the trigger and despite Lewis Webb's best efforts, there was no stopping Doyle's effort and certainly no stopping him in scoring his first competitive goal for the club.
The Saints almost had a third minutes later when Billy King's long range effort rattled off the crossbar with St Pats beginning to dominate in all sectors of the field.
Shelbourne did go close to pulling one back when Jack Moylan skilfully took down a long Aaron O'Driscoll ball, but Moylan's powerful shot had too much venom as it sailed well over the crossbar.
Joseph Anang impressed on his league debut and he pulled off an acrobatic save in the 78th minute when Jordan McEneff picked up the ball on the edge of the area. It looked for a moment as if it had creeped into the top corner but Anang got his hand to deny the Shelbourne midfielder.
With Chris Forrester as commanding as ever in the middle of the park, he almost rounded off his performance in spectacular form. He unleashed one of his trademark thunderbolts from distance but he was denied by a superb Webb save in the Shelbourne goal. There was a scramble from the resulting corner with James Abankwah's header eventually forcing Webb to tip over the crossbar again.
St Pats rounded over a perfect performance in the 87th minute when substitute Jay McClelland drove home. Mark Doyle did well on the left and he delivered a dangerous, low ball into the penalty area. McClelland met it first time to round off a perfect performance on Dublin's North side.
Next up for The Saints is a home tie next Friday night against Sligo Rovers at Richmond.