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The Irishman applied the finish to a well-worked corner routine to score the only goal of an opening period during which Stoke also struck the bar.
Sam Allardyce's hosts rarely called Asmir Begovic into action and when they did, the ball had been adjudged to have gone out of play before James Tomkins forced the Potters stopper into a superb close-range save.
Top-scorer Kevin Nolan also had an effort on Begovic's goal but his tame strike was never troubling the Bosnian.
Instead it was the visitors who threatened to add to their advantage as Steven N'Zonzi sent a shot from outside the area just over the bar.
The summer arrival from Blackburn Rovers came even closer minutes later when he rattled the crossbar from a similar distance.