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YOUNG GUNS GET BIG CHANCE TO SHINE AT INCHICORE

By JOHN HUDSON

HEAD coach Stephen O’Donnell hasn’t hesitated in turning to his young
home-grown talent and handing them first team starts for the unbeaten
St Patrick’s Athletic.

The Saints have made their best start to the SSE Airtricity League
Premier Division campaign for a number of seasons and currently share
top spot with holders Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers after six
series of games.

A visit to Finn Harps this (Friday) evening for a 5.45 kick off (Live
on WATCH LOI) will certainly test them as they were dumped out of the
FAI Cup by Harps in the first round at Ballybofey last season and
later fell to defeat again in a league fixture.

Last Tuesday’s 1-0 victory over Waterford FC at Richmond Park saw
O’Donnell give a first team debut to midfielder Ben McCormack (18), a
Republic of Ireland Under 17 cap, while another product of their under 19
league title winning side Darragh Burns was also in the starting
line-up.

Picture of Ben McCormack in action. Credit: Darragh Connolly, St Patrick’s Athletic photographer

Burns (18), a Northern Ireland underage international, operates wide
on either flank and he has impressed in earlier fixtures after been
given two previous starts, plus two substitute appearances and he
wasted little time in adding to his first senior goal against Derry
City by scoring St Pat’s only goal against Waterford with just two
minutes on the clock.

O’Donnell praised the performance of the two youngsters but he did
sound a little word of warning.

“The easy bit as such is getting there; then they have to keep playing
well and work hard to stay there.”

The Pat’s boss also regretted the lack of spectators at the games
especially for the benefit of the two young players and their
families.

“It’s just a pity the spectators weren’t there especially for the
young boys. Even Darragh scoring his two goals in front of two and a
half or three and a half thousand fans, the buzz he’d get off that,
I’m sure he’d be delighted.

“Also for their families not to be able to be there to watch the lads.
They are the ones who would have brought them all around the country
and Dublin to training sessions and games all the way up.

“Then when they get to the promised land of senior League of Ireland
football they have to sit at home and watch them play. That’s
disappointing for them all but hopefully in the near future they can
come along and see their sons play.”

The rapid progress of McCormack and Burns into the first team is also
testament to the great work that has been going on for a number of
years at St Pat’s with their highly successful four underage sides who
have managed to claim an impressive collection of league and cup
trophies.

Credit for this must go to Academy Director Ger O’Brien, a
distinguished former player and to the various coaches who have helped
in the progress of McCormack and Burns at underage level. Among them
Jamie Moore, Niall Cully and John Donohoe.

While the guidance of the first team staff of O’Donnell, Alan Mathews,
Patrick Cregg, Sean O’Connor and Patrick Jennings are now contributing
to their further development.

Several other members of Moore’s title winning under 19 side
goalkeeper Josh Keeley (17), striker Kyle Robinson (18), midfielder
Kian Corbally (17) and defender Cian Kelly (19) are now first team
squad members and are sure to make their debuts during the season.

While St Pat’s cross channel loanees goalkeeper Vit Jaros (19) from
Liverpool, Reading striker Nahum Melvin-Lambert (18) and Alfie Lewis
(21) the  West Ham midfielder’s arrival have also helped to lower the
age profile in Inchicore.

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