By John Hudson
Stephen O’Donnell certainly appreciates the value of having
experienced players of the calibre of Ian Bermingham and Chris
Forrester plus his former Dundalk team mates Robbie Benson and John
Mountney in the St Patrick’s Athletic dressing room.
While defender Lee Desmond just 26 in January last is fast proving
himself to be in a similar mould, emerging this season as a real
leader on the pitch.
Their presence has helped to drive on the Saints to the top of SSE
Airtricity Premier Division ahead of champions Shamrock Rovers on goal
St Pat’s have an excellent opportunity to extend that lead when they
face one off the bottom Longford Town at Richmond Park this (Friday)
evening (ko 5.45, Live on WATCH LOI). While Rovers are visiting Finn
Harps later that evening.
Skipper Bermingham is in his twelfth season at Richmond Park, a league
and cup winner who holds the club’s all-time appearance record and
O’Donnell recognises the huge commitment he continues to give to the
“Bermo is a St Pat’s icon, he keeps himself in great condition, his
fitness levels have always been top of the group here. He’s moving
very well at the minute and really enjoying his football and training.
“He also has the respect of the whole dressing room with the career
he’s had, always backing the team even when he doesn’t start. I think
he’s enjoying nurturing the younger lads and showing them the ropes.
“His personal performances have been very good; he’s played in a
couple of positions this season too. Players that are like Bermo,
football intelligent, you can move them into different positions
because they know the movements, they know what it takes.
“You could play Bermo anywhere on the pitch and he’d know where to be
and what to do.” explained O’Donnell.
It’s also an added bonus for O’Donnell to have another top
professional like Chris Forrester in the dressing room. Forrester who
is back playing with all the skill and enthusiasm that St Pat’s fans
will remember he displayed prior to his move to Peterborough United in
“Chris has really impressed this season especially in our recent run
of games when he played a full 90 minutes in all three games over the
six days and was still going strong at the full-time whistle.
“He’s in a good vein of form at the moment and is fit and he has the
desire, while you’d never question his ability. Since I’ve come here
his attitude has been very good, he’s a real team player. When he was
left out last season he was roaring the team on.
“Always backing the team even when he doesn’t start. Funny sometimes
players with a lot of talent when they’re left out of the team, they
can get a bit sulky. But not Chris, he’s a real genuine guy and wants
the team to do well.
“He started the season very well and like Bermo he has been a great
example in training with the younger boys and has the respect of the
whole dressing room through his sheer ability and also in his
leadership now which is great to see.
“At 28 now it’s a perfect age to really get the best out of his career
in the remaining years.” pointed out the St Pat’s boss.
As a player O’Donnell was part of the hugely successful Dundalk squad
assembled by Stephen Kenny that claimed league titles and FAI Cups
while also reaching the group stages of the Europa Cup.
There were certainly strong characters in that Oriel Park dressing
room, top professionals like Gary Rogers, Brian Gartland, Chris
Shields and O’Donnell himself and now at Richmond Park a similar
situation is evolving with the likes of Bermingham and Forrester.
O’Donnell explains the dressing room dynamics that can give teams an edge..
“Players drive the dressing room; coaches can say all they want but if
you don’t have a good group of players that are driving it from within
the dressing room you’re going to struggle.
“Ultimately it’s the players that create the energy, the coaches are
just there to facilitate them and try and give them the best sort of
platform to go and express themselves. But they have to do all the
hard bit, stepping over the white line, been brave, taking the ball
and working hard. So, the coaches and staff here at St Pat’s never get
lulled into thinking they are too important.
“It’s all about players, football is all about them. They do the hard
part. We give the instructions but ultimately, it’s the players who
have to go and carry it out. That’s why I’m so delighted at what
they’ve done so far this season in regards to their attitude and
digging in and being brave on the ball when they had to as well.
“However although at the minute we’re going well I wouldn’t be
comparing it to the Dundalk days. We’re forming our own journey,
Dundalk is Dundalk. We’re on our own path and we’ll see where it takes
us. We started alright but we know if we drop off a little bit we can
get turned over. We are well aware of that.” warned O’Donnell.