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St. Patrick’s Athletic: Review Of The Season (2023): By Aidan Crowley


St. Patrick’s Athletic: Review Of The Season (2023): By Aidan Crowley

The 2023 League of Ireland (LOI) season proved to be a highly successful one for St. Patrick’s Athletic, with the Inchicore club finishing a respectable third in the LOI Premier League and also claiming their second Sports Direct FAI Cup in three years. In the process, the Super Saints earned a place in the UEFA Europa Conference League qualifiers for the third consecutive season.

The season began poorly for the Richmond Park outfit, as they lost five of their first fifteen league matches, including defeats to Stephen O’ Donnell’s Dundalk (5-0), Dublin rivals, Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians and twice to Sligo Rovers.

The club’s Board of Directors responded swiftly to this uninspiring start, removing Tim Clancy from his position as Head Coach (he was subsequently appointed as Cork City’s new boss), with his assistant, Jon Daly, taking over as boss, initially on a temporary basis.

Under Daly’s guidance, the Saints’ form improved drastically, which saw him appointed as Head Coach on a permanent basis. There were some impressive wins, along the way, including a 4-1 victory against Derry City and a 7-0 hammering of UCD. After being installed as Head Coach on a permanent basis, Daly was averaging 1.96 points per game.

At various junctures throughout this year’s campaign, it looked as though Pats might capitalise on Shamrock Rovers’ inconsistent form and challenge the Hoops for their league title. However, disappointing defeats to Drogheda United (twice) and Shelbourne, put an end to any possible title charge.

Despite these setbacks and after a shaky start, it was another satisfactory season for the Saints, consolidating their European status and putting down a marker for a future tilt at the league title.

Following an excellent showing in the Europa Conference League in 2022, progressing against NS Mura, going close against CSKA Sofia and earning a healthy 750,000 Euros bonus for making the third qualifying round, the club and fans were hoping to replicate these performances in 2023. However, as events unfolded, this was not to happen.

Pats drew Luxembourg side, F91 Dudelange in the first qualifying round and got off to the worst possible start, with a 2-1 away loss. A late Mark Doyle strike provided some hope that a turnaround was possible, back in Inchicore. However, despite the Saints leveling the tie at Richmond Park, a second half collapse saw the Luxembourgers go through to the second qualifying round, thus ending Pats’ European adventure.

However, the best was yet to come, as the Saints clinched their second Sports Direct FAI Cup in three years, defeating Bohemians 3-1 in front of a record 43,881 crowd at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday 12th November. In a repeat of the 2021 final, Pats did it the hard way, coming from behind with a trademark goal from Mark Doyle, an own goal from Krystian Nowak and a late strike from Tommy Lonergan, to capture the blue-riband of Irish football, once again.

The Saints will look to build on the fantastic achievements of the 2023 season, going forward. With Daly at the helm, once again, next season, the possibilities are endless for the Inchicore outfit. Pats have already been active in the transfer market, looking to strengthen their squad, ahead of the 2024 season.

One area which was desperately in need of an overhaul, over the course of last season, was the Pats striking department. Eoin Doyle never hit the heights that some thought he might on his return to the league and he retired for personal reasons, during the season. That left a rather young and inexperienced cohort of centre forwards to lead the attack for the Saints.

Recent signings, like Ruairi Keating from Cork City and Cian Kavanagh from Derry City, will add depth to the squad, while bolstering the strike force. At present, Pats can be very reliant on Chris Forrester and Jake Mulraney for inspiration to create chances, so Brandon Kavanagh’s arrival from Derry City will boost the Saints’ midfield options.

The goalkeeping situation also needs sorting out. While Danny Rogers has re-signed for next season, fans are eagerly waiting to see if Dean Lyness will return to Dublin 8 for the new campaign.

With Sam Curtis’ impending departure, the right back area will need strengthening. Ryan McLaughlin and Axel Sjoberg suffered quite a few injuries and were unavailable for a lot of games throughout last season, so it would be a risk to rely on either. If Adam Murphy was also to depart in this transfer window, Pats will need to delve into the market to further strengthen in this area.

Club: St. Patrick’s Athletic.

Head Coach(s): Tim Clancy (until 2nd May 2023); Jon Daly (from 2nd May 2023).

Top Scorer: Chris Forrester (fifteen goals in all competitions).

Highest Attendance: 5,022 v Shamrock Rovers (27th October 2023).

Lowest Attendance: 3,117 v Sligo Rovers (23rd October 2023).

Star Player: Chris Forrester.

It’s hard to underestimate the importance of the role that the Smithfield maestro plays in the overall performance of his team. It has been shown, over the last few years, that if Pats are to have a successful season, the form of Forrester is pivotal.

The Dubliner was, once again, the heartbeat of the Saints’ midfield. He made forty-two appearances for the club across all competitions, playing a total of 3,569 minutes and finishing as top goal scorer, hitting fifteen goals from the centre of the park.

Forrester also starred for the Super Saints on their way to FAI Cup glory. He started every game in the competition, including playing one hundred and twenty minutes away to holders Derry City at the Brandywell. He converted his spot kick, during the penalty shootout and also scored in vital ties against Longford Town and Finn Harps, along the way to cup success.

Best Young Player: Sam Curtis.

The Meath man, at eighteen years of age. carried a maturity beyond his years, throughout the season. He has, so far, managed to accumulate over sixty first team appearances for the club, while showcasing his outstanding defensive skills, both at right back and centre back.

Curtis made thirty-nine starts during the season, with six goal contributions (three goals and three assists), including the winner against Shelbourne at Tolka Park, back in May.

Despite his young age, he was seen organizing the back four when captain, Joe Redmond, was unavailable for a large chunk of the season, through injury. His exceptional form led to a call up to Jim Crawford’s Republic of Ireland Under-21 side. He has since established himself as the first choice right back in the national underage team.

Curtis has hinted that his last appearance for the Saints was the FAI Cup final against Bohemians, last month. However, one thing is for sure, it will not be his last appearance at the Aviva Stadium for a big match.

Best New Signing: Dean Lyness.

There has been a revolving door when it comes to the Pats number one position for the past few seasons. It looked as though it had finally been sorted when Danny Rogers re-signed for the club, after coming in at the back end of 2022.

However, a serious hand injury ruled Rogers out for numerous months at the start of the season. His deputy, David Odumusu stepped in and his early season performances did little to instill confidence among the Pats faithful.

Up stepped Dean Lyness, a relatively unknown journeyman goalkeeper, who was originally signed as an emergency cover for Rogers, but ended up being a colossus for the Saints, this season.

The Englishman’s gilt-edged performances won over the Camac, early on, with some superb saves. Chants of “Deano” could be heard on a constant basis from the Pats stalwarts in recognition of his quality performances between the posts.

Lyness made thirty-eight appearances for the club across all competitions, keeping fourteen clean sheets. A question mark remains over his future, with no confirmation from the club or player as to whether this super shot stopper will return to Richmond Park in 2024.



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