ST. PATRICK’S ATHLETIC
St Patrick’s Athletic bid for a top-half finish in the Premier Division as they welcome Derry City to Richmond Park on Friday (kick-off 7.45 pm) in the final fixture of the season.
A better result than cross-city rivals Bohemians (who play champions Dundalk) will see the Saints finish fifth in the standings, albeit quite a distance away from the European slots.
St. Pat’s earned their first league win since the departure of former boss Liam Buckley with a 4-0 away win over relegation play-off bound Limerick last week.
"I was really pleased with the performance from the players last week,” director of football Ger O'Brien told the club's website.
"We created a load of chances to add to the four goals we got and by right, should have won by more but I was still delighted with the lads’ application and desire to get the result."
O’Brien has acted as first team manager since Buckley’s departure last month and has been delighted with the reaction of the St. Pat’s players.
"We have set ourselves the target of getting to 50 points in the league and we can do that by winning on Friday night against Derry City.
“The players have been great for me since I've come in a few weeks ago and I'm hoping we can push on and finish on a high for all involved in the team and for the supporters.”
A back fixture in Bray for the Foylesiders gave O’Brien the opportunity for some scouting.
"I was out watching Derry last Monday in their game against Bray and they had enough chances to win the game, but got caught out at the end by Bray from a set-piece.
“I know Kenny Shiels will be urging his players to finish on a high as well so we have to be put in a good performance to get the three points."
Harry Kenny has been appointed to the Richmond Park hot seat for next year’s campaign but O’Brien will remain in charge of the Saints for this game.
The Dubliner paid tribute to winger Conan Byrne, who will leave the Saints after the Derry encounter.
"Friday will be the last game for a few players and one who has given the club great service is Conan Byrne.
“I know Conan well having played with him at the club and he has been great since I got involved in the coaching of the team as well.
“Conan joined us in 2013 and since then has been superb each season in scoring goals and helping us win silverware.”
"Conan will go down not only as a fans' favourite, but one of the best players to have played for the club in our history."
Derry City are five points behind Friday’s opposition and so the best position the Candystripes can achieve is seventh.
It’s been an inconsistent season for Derry. Their league form has been frustrating although they did win the EA Sports Cup, defeating Cobh Ramblers in the final.
However, Derry have tasted defeat five times in the six league matches played since that eleventh success in the EA Sports Cup.
Defending has been a problem – only Limerick and Bray have shipped more goals in the league this term.
Two of those five defeats came in the last week – a 3-0 home loss to Cork City last Friday night being quickly followed by a chastening 2-1 reverse to relegated Bray Wanderers at the Carlisle Grounds on Monday.
Derry’s only solace during their recent run was a Rory Hale strike for a 1-0 win in Limerick on October 5th, which was only the Foylesiders’ seventh clean sheet in 35 league games.
Speaking to the Derry City media team this week, Derry City boss Kenny Shiels said he wasn’t underestimating the importance of the St. Pat’s fixture.
“No game is a ‘dead rubber’ in my book and even if it’s only pride at stake at times then so be it.
“We had so many chances to close the game out in Bray and were caught by a late sucker-punch, something that has affected us a few times this season.”
Referee: Tomas Connolly
The last meeting between the sides at Richmond Park in May ended in a 5-2 romp for Pat’s. Ironically, the visitors led twice, through Rory Patterson and Darren Cole.
Jake Keegan, Conan Byrne, Kevin Toner, Thomas Byrne and Darragh Markey scored for the Saints, however, as they ran out comfortable winners.
Derry have beaten the Saints three times at the Brandywell this season.
In a televised encounter on March 30th, a brace from Aaron McEneff gave Derry a third home win in a row as Dean Clarke netted a late consolation for Pats.
Three players were dismissed late on during a stormy rematch in July as Derry carved out another 2-1 victory.
Rory Patterson scored an 88th minute winner for Derry after Ally Roy and Ryan Brennan had exchanged first half goals. Ger Doherty made a brilliant save from a Killian Brennan penalty.
Another missed penalty cost St. Pat’s when the sides met in the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup second round at the Brandywell in August. This time Doherty denied Ian Turner as a Rory Delap strike sent Derry through.
St. Patrick’s Athletic 4/5; Draw 5/2; Derry City 11/4.
St. Patrick’s Athletic 2 – 1 Derry City
St Patrick’s Athletic
Injured: Darragh Markey and Christy Fagan.
Doubtful: Nicky Lowe and Rory Hale.