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Pat’s prepare for season ahead

Liam Buckley’s St Patrick’s Athletic have enjoyed an excellent pre-season, recording four victories from four without conceding. The latest of these victories came against Shelbourne at Tolka Park, where the combination of new signings and established squad showed promising signs.

 

After winning the League of Ireland in 2013, St. Pats only managed a third-place finish in last year’s campaign, ending the season nine points adrift of eventual champions Dundalk. A victory in the FAI Ford Cup was some consolation for Buckley’s men, ending their 53 year cup drought with 2 goals from Christy Fagan against Derry City FC at the Aviva Stadium last November.

 

Hoping to build on last year’s success Buckley has brought in a few new faces, most notably Ciaran Kilduff and Jason McGuinness, both from Shamrock Rovers. Kilduff has proven himself to be a goal scorer, scoring 11 goals in 14 appearances on loan for Cork City last year, while McGuinness provides experience at centre back.

The loss of former Irish international Keith Fahey will come as a blow to Buckley’s team, but there is still a vast array of creative talent in their midfield ranks, with Chris Forrester and Killian Brennan amongst some of the most technically gifted players in the league.

 

Brennan himself admitted that conceding their title to Dundalk last year was a disappointment, but he believes that the season wasn’t a complete failure.

He said: “We were disappointed last year that we didn’t retain our title but we went on to win the FAI cup and I suppose that was bittersweet in the end.”

St. Pat’s will have gained a boost in confidence from their impressive pre-season, recording a 7-0 win against Tolka Rovers and a 6-0 win against Cabinteely FC at their home ground Richmond Park in Inchicore. The 2-0 victory against Shelbourne on a poor pitch at Tolka Park has given Brennan optimism ahead of what is to be a difficult start to the campaign.

“Obviously the pitch was poor tonight,” explains Brennan referring to the friendly against Shelbourne. “It was a poor enough game to watch. I watched the first half from the bench. We were keeping the ball well on a tough pitch. I suppose two nil was a decent result for us on a poor pitch. We are going well. We haven’t lost all pre season so hopefully we can bring that into the start of the new season.”

The Saints start their season against Dundalk in the Presidents Cup, before travelling away to Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk in the space of two weeks, with a fixture against Bray Wanderers at Richmond Park in between. With most of the top four teams from last year strengthening their squads, it looks to be a tight race for the title.

”It’s the toughest league in three or four years,” said Brennan. ”Cork have strengthened really well. Dundalk have brought in a couple of players. Rovers have strengthened, they brought in Keith Fahey and my brother. We’ve strengthened as well. There is four teams that could win it there. And I wouldn’t rule out Sligo either.”

The Pat’s star also paid testament to new signings Kilduff and McGuiness, and believes the team can adapt to new formations in tough games if needs be. “Obviously Jay has been around so he knows what needs to be done. Ciaran as well. They have gelled in straight away,” he said.

“We have tried a 4-4-2 in some of the games and we look good in that formation as well. If we need to score goals or need to really go for a game that formation looks good for us. The boys are fitting in really well and we are flying at the moment,” said Brennan.

Killian Brennan has been regarded as one of the top players in the league for many years now, and his experience has showed. Despite being a midfielder his entire career Brennan filled in at both centre back and left back last season, and his performances were applauded.

“I’ve been around the block as they say. It’s nice to be an experienced player. I teach the lads a couple of things or two. Hopefully I can learn a couple of things off them young lads as well to keep me sharp in training,” explained Brennan.

“Physically everyone it flying. We have a new fitness instructor in and everyone is buzzing. We’re stronger and fitter than we have been in the last two years,” he said.

 

Pat’s face Dundalk in the Presidents Cup on the 28th of February at Oriel Park. Last years league winners will be without captain Stephen O’Donnell and have lost their star striker Pat Hoban to Oxford United. After a dominating pre-season and no fresh injury news, the Saints will be hoping to add some silverware to their trophy cabinet before the League of Ireland campaign has even begun.

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