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O’DONNELL STAYS FOCUSED AHEAD OF VISIT OF CANDYSTRIPES TO RICHMOND

DIRECTING OPERATIONS: Stephen O’Donnell on the touchline in the civvies. Photo: Darragh Connolly

BY JOHN HUDSON

Seven points from nine after the opening three games of the new SSE
Airtricity League season has given St Patrick’s Athletic an impressive
start.

The Saints share top spot in the Premier Division with Finn Harps and
Sligo Rovers going into Friday evenings home tussle with Derry City
(5.45 Live on Watch LOI) but Head Coach Stephen O’Donnell is certainly
not getting carried away with the action-packed start to the season.

“Of course, I’m happy with the start but there’s still loads and loads
to improve on.

“Good and bad results can mask a lot of performances, it’s a fickle
enough game. Everything seems to be brilliant when you get a few wins
but it seems to be disastrous if you get a few defeats.

SUPER SAINT: Ronan Coughlan is congratulated after scoring against Drogheda United. Photo: Darragh Connolly

“So, it’s never like that you have to treat each performance on its
merits. It’s a good start no more than that three games in.

“We know if we fall below a certain level, we can get turned over by
anyone. It’s up to us to keep our consistency in the way we perform
and deploy ourselves.”

Galway native O’Donnell is into his second season at St Pat’s after
injury forced him to finish an illustrious playing career at Dundalk
and he’s really enjoying the new role that was handed to him at
Richmond Park.

“I’ve really enjoyed it here since I came in. I feel a little bit more
secure this season with the group of players we have, they come into
the training ground every day and they want to learn.

“As a coach you can never relax you’re always looking to improve but
I’ve enjoyed it here.

“Of course results determine a lot. When you win it’s the best gig in
the world. On the other hand when you get a defeat it’s kind of an end
of the world stuff. But week on week in training I love being with
this group of players and then if you get a good result at the weekend
it caps it all.”

 Last weekend was certainly a good one for O’Donnell and his squad of
players; a Ronan Coughlan header just over the hour mark was enough to
secure all three points against Bohemians in a Dalymount Park Dublin
Derby, Coughlan’s second goal in two games.

That win followed a 2-1 victory over Drogheda United with Coughlan and
Billy King grabbing the goals and an opening night 1-1 draw at
Shamrock Rovers after Roberto Lopes diverted Robbie Benson’s low drive
past Alan Mannus in the home goal has catapulted St Pat’s to a share
in the top spot in the table.

While on the other hand Friday evening’s visitors Derry haven’t fared
as well having lost their opening two games of the season.

Their match against Shamrock Rovers was moved due to international
call-ups and will be played on Tuesday next.

Declan Devine’s side lost out at Longford Town 2-0 on the opening
night and suffered a 2-1 home defeat to Waterford FC last week.

The sides met twice last year, with Derry City winning 2-0 at Richmond
before a 0-0 draw in the return fixture at the Ryan McBride Brandywell
in September.

Despite Derry’s poor start O’Donnell is under no illusions of how
tough the game will be on Friday:

“I watched the Derry game against Waterford last weekend. They were by
far the most dominant team, possession and chances wise. On any other
given week, they definitely would have gotten something from the game,
so we are under no illusions. It’s going to be a very tough game and
Derry have a lot of very good players, so we are going to have to play
very well to get anything from the game and we know that.”

Injuries to Shane Griffin (shoulder) and Cian Kelly (foot) will rule
them out of the Derry games but with a strong squad to select from St
Pat’s will be looking to use home advantage to maintain their early
season momentum.

Incidentally St Pat’s fans and football programme collectors can
download the Derry City match programme from the club web site and
it’s free.

  • Pictures supplied by Darragh Connolly (St Pat’s club photographer).

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