St Patrick’s Season Preview

By Oisin Gregorian

March, the month where the season of spring finally takes shape. The temperature begins to rise as the grass on the football pitches begin to grow again, keeping the groundsmen hard at work. In the south Dublin suburb of Inchicore something different is growing and with it a level of excitement. It is the excitement of the return of football to Richmond Park.

When Alan Keane of Sligo Rovers sent the Showground into raptures with a last minute penalty to deny The Saints a final day victory, a re-evaluation began. 2010 fifth place finish was certainly an improvement on a disappointing seventh in 2009. Good early season form saw the saints hold onto a place near the top of the table. However a late slump meant St Pat’s ended the season without a trophy. Coach Pete Mahon said that 2010 “wasn’t a great season, but it was an improvement”.

Key to success is to have chemistry and togetherness within a squad. It was in Mahon’s best interests to keep a stable core of players on for another season in order to improve even more in 2011. However, the club were rocked in January by the sudden departure of long-serving fan favourite Ryan Guy. After four successful seasons Ryan, originally from San Diego, wanted to be closer to his family in the US. Despite the best efforts of Mahon and other senior coaching staff to change the midfielder’s mind it proved unsuccessful.

Though the departure of Guy was certainly a blow for the new season, replacements and contract extensions were made throughout the squad. Signed halfway through last year on a temporary basis, Englishman Danny North has been resigned for the 2011 season to add more steel to a Saints attack whose top league scorer failed to break into double digits. The former Grimsby Town player hopes to pick up where he left off last season, in which he bagged a number of goals. Joining North is veteran Premier Division midfielder Paul Crowley whose decade of experience which will only add depth and stability to the Saint’s.

Former Waterford United midfielder Daryl Kavanagh is seen as the natural replacement to Ryan Guy. Hailed as a major asset by Pete Mahon, “I feel he is the kind of player that will definitely enhance our squad. He is still only 24 but he’s already had 5 or 6 years’ experience in the league and he can play either up front or out wide on the right.” Mahon told the club’s official website.

Hoping to follow up on solid 2010s are defenders Derek Pender, Conor Kenna and goalkeeper Gary Rogers. A man of 100% effort and great desire, Pender starts his second season at Richmond Park alongside Kenna, who joined last year also. Kenna has since been praised by Mahon after playing every game of his debut season for the Saints and didn’t pick up a single yellow card. Meath man Gary Rogers in now into his 3rd season for the club. After a rather shaky debut season for Pat’s, Rogers gained confidence and produced a handful of excellent performances during 2010, including a player of the month award for March last year after keeping five consecutive clean sheets.

There is no doubting St. Pat’s scoring ability. The club finished third in the goalscoring charts, Though this was a respectable statistic, Pat’s leading goal scorer, Vinny Faherty, failed to break into double figures in the league and reached 11 in all competitions. The three forwards averaged four league goals and six in all competitions. Goals were being scored from defenders to strikers, but not enough from one particular outlet. “It could and should have been better goal scoring-wise. There is a need for an out and out goalscorer this season,” said Mahon. With  Danny North, Vinny Faherty and Pete Mulcahy leading the line, Pat’s certainly have a frontline of experience, pace and plenty of goal scoring ability that they hope can propel the club to success in 2011.

The opening month of the new league season will see Pat’s play four games with two to be played at Richmond Park against Bray and Dundalk. But the match of the month will be undoubtedly be the club’s third match of the season against Rovers at Tallaght Stadium. With no wins in their last five encounters against their Dublin rivals, the pressure will surely be on them to get a hold of an early season scalp and bragging rights in the capital. March 2011 is just the start for them. Inchicore waits to see what the end product will be come later in the year.

The pitch has been cut, the lines painted and the turnstiles opened – Richmond Park has awoken once again.

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