The Airtricity Premier Division champions came from a goal behind to share the spoils at a rain-soaked Richmond Park
Buoyed on by their recent coronation as Airtricity Champions, the home side got into their stride early on, as Sean Gannon forced Derry goalkeeper Gerard Doherty into a decent save in only the second minute.
However, it was Derry who had the most clear cut chance of the opening exchanges. After the Saints’ defence failed to cut out a cross field pass from deep inside the Derry half in the fifth minute, Michael Rafter found himself with only the home goalkeeper to beat, but Brendan Clarke showed just why his side have conceded only six goals at home all season long with a fine save.
With the prospect of Europa League football, were they to hang on to fourth place and if Sligo Rovers lift the FAI Cup, the visitors were not coming to Richmond Park to play the role of polite guests; with seven minutes gone, a well-worked short corner by Derry saw the ball arrive at the feet of Patrick McEleney and the midfielder’s sublime curling shot just clipped the top of Clarke’s crossbar. In a lively opening quarter hour in the Inchichore drizzle, the Saints replied almost immediately when a clever through ball from Shane McFaul found Christy Fagan in the six yard area, but the ex-Manchester United youth player’s angled shot was palmed away to safety by Doherty.
An enterprising Derry attack saw Ryan Curran and Barry McNamee exchange passes as they unlocked the home defence; drawing two Pat’s defenders to him, Curran’s neat return pass found Barry McNamee with only Clarke to beat, and his composed finish stunned the Saints’ supporters into silence.
Despite Saints manager Liam Buckley sending out a more attacking line-up after the break, the well-marshalled Derry defence was coping well enough with whatever the champions were throwing at them, and in the 65th minute, Buckley made the last throw of the dice with his third substitution, Christy Fagan being replaced by top scorer Anto Flood.
Pat’s needed inspiration, and with eight minutes to go, they got it through top scorer and substitute Anto Flood. Played into space on the left by Bermingham, as the Derry defence tried to push him out wide, nothing seemed on for him. Then again, that has seemed to be the case so often this season, and his sublime curling effort into the left hand side of Doherty’s goal had the Saints’ supporters on their feet as chants of “that’s why we’re champions!” rang out around Richmond Park.
After the final whistle, St Pat's finally got to hoist the league trophy for the first time in 14 years, much to the delight of the 3,000-strong crowd who braved the rain to watch the champions.