2020 Season Preview: St Patrick's Athletic
- Andrew Dempsey
- Sat, Feb 08 2020
Manager: Stephen O’Donnell
Stadium: Richmond Park
Players in: Jason McClelland (UCD), Conor Kearns (UCD), Rory Feely (Waterford), Robbie Benson (Dundalk), Shane Griffin (Cork City), Dan Ward (Spennymoor Town), Billy King (Morton), Martin Rennie (Montrose).
Players out: Kevin Toner (Kilmore Celtic), Glen McAuley (Bohemians), Conor Clifford (Derry City), David Webster (Finn Harps), Cian Coleman (Cork City), Mikey Drennan (Unattached), Rhys McCabe (Brechin City).
Extratime.ie Key Man: Robbie Benson
After an off-season that has seen a number of young players come into the fold at Richmond Park – Robbie Benson may very well prove to be the experienced head that they crave for 2020.
The former UCD midfielder made his mark at Dundalk, winning three league titles and he was also a part of the club’s ground-breaking European odyssey of 2016.
And given his previous success at Oriel Park, Benson may prove to be a key part of the Stephen O’Donnell jigsaw at Richmond Park in 2020.
Extratime.ie One to Watch: Luke McNally
Nine goals to his name in the 2019 First Division, one may be forgiven for thinking that St Patrick’s Athletic defender Luke McNally was a striker. But that, he is not.
While he has goals, he also has a defensive maturity that proved to be a key part of Drogheda United’s ultimately unsuccessful yet heart-breaking promotion tilt of 2019.
While on loan at United Park from the Saints, McNally turned heads with his performances in the second tier, and with a revolution of sorts taking place under Stephen O’Donnell at Richmond Park, the 20-year-old can certainly show that he has what it takes to flourish in the Premier Division.
How they did last season:
It was a forgetful enough year at the office for the Saints in the league last term, as they struggled to find goals – and consistency to secure a Europa League position.
The final day defeat away to Dundalk ensured the Athletic would not take their place in the Europa league in 2020 – but their fate was all but sealed well before then.
And after an inconsistent year at the office, initial boss Harry Kenny left the club – to be replaced by former Dundalk captain Stephen O’Donnell.
All in all, it was a frustrating year at Richmond Park – with a dearth of goalscoring options costing them dear.
After successfully negating past the challenge of Bray Wanderers in their FAI Cup opener, St Patrick’s Athletic were dealt a hammer blow in the second round away to UCD.
A 3-1 defeat not only saw the Saints exit the competition, it also saw the end of the Kenny reign at Richmond Park – with Liam Kerrigan and Yoyo Mahdy on the scoresheet for the Students before Conor Clifford netted at the death.
EA Sports Cup:
St Patrick’s Athletic bowed out of the EA Sports Cup at their first hurdle, falling to defeat against eventual winner Dundalk at Richmond Park.
James Doona had levelled for the Saints early on after Georgie Kelly gave the Lilywhites a fifth minute lead – before Dean Jarvis struck the winner shortly after for Vinny Perth’s side.
What to expect this season:
After a false dawn of sorts prior to the beginning of the 2019 campaign, St Patrick’s Athletic injection of a youthful exuberance during the off-season may prove to be a major asset.
The acquisition of former UCD duo Jason McClelland and Conor Kearns will both be looking to play their part – with the creative McClelland possessing a number of tricks in arsenal.
The battle between for the number one jersey between Kearns and Brendan Clarke will also be interesting to watch playing out – and there is also Ireland under-19 keeper Brian Maher who will be looking to make his mark.
2020 may also be the year where a number of the club’s underage stars begin to make their mark – especially after their impact in the Leinster Senior Cup final win over Athlone Town in November.
While the Athletic may not exactly be title contenders just yet – they certainly have the potential to compete at the upper echelons of the table again.
A good cup run, coupled with European qualification will certainly suffice in Inchicore this season, as recently installed Head Coach Stephen O’Donnell begins to put his stamp on things at Richmond Park.
Title Odds: 16/1.
First game: Waterford (H).
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