A tenth minute headed effort from Christy Fagan ensured St Patrick’s Athletic recorded a first win in Europe since 2012, when they defeated AS Jeunesse Esch 1-0 at Richmond Park on Tuesday evening and after the game the Saints skipper Ger O’Brien spoke to Extatime.ie about his side’s performance.
“It’s a funny feeling walking off [the pitch] because there's a sense of disappointment in the dressing room that we probably didn’t take advantage of what we felt was a good opportunity to maybe score another goal or two,” the defender told Extratime.ie.
“But in saying that it’s our first win since 2012. It’s a 1-0 win and it’s a clean sheet more importantly and it gives us a good opportunity going over there [to Luxembourg] next week.”
After a run of three consecutive league defeats against Bohemians, Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk, the defender who's been at St Pat’s since 2012 explained they were conscious of the recent results, but they were aware their recent performances have been good despite results not going their way.
“We were conscious going into the game that our form hasn’t been superb, but as Liam [Buckley] said in there [the post-match press conference] the Dundalk performance was a lot better than previous weeks and even the [Shamrock] Rovers performance when they went 1-0 up in the first-half, I thought for 20 minutes of the second-half we really dominated the game and then they sucker punched us. That’s football.
“In this group there are a lot of new players and we’re learning, the expectations from ourselves has probably weighed us down a little bit more, but with a club like Pats it has to be like that and coming into Europe I suppose we wanted to stop that rot of defeats and we’ve done that.”
Despite leading 1-0 and in cruise control during the opening half, the Saints had several excellent opportunities to extend their advantage with both Christy Fagan and Ian Bermingham heading wide from close range and O’Brien explained he initially thought his cross for Fagan’s effort was too low and despite the Saints top scorer failing to convert from six yards, the 90 minutes will do him the world of good ahead of the second leg next Tuesday.
“I’ve just driven it across and I actually thought when I kicked it first it was going to be too low, I thought the centre-half was going to get it, but it’s just fallen perfectly for him and from my angle it looked inches if not I thought it was in and then I’ve asked him and he’s said that it’s just flashed by the post.
“It's his first 90 minutes in a while so he’ll be a lot sharper for it next week and I think they’ll look at him and realise how good and how much problems he can cause them. Hopefully next week he will get another [opportunity] and he’ll take it.”
With the Jeunesse sitting deep inside their own half during the opening half, O’Brien was allowed the space to roam forward on several occasions and he explained while it was pleasing to contribute going forward, his main concentration was ensuring his side kept a clean sheet and in turn preventing the opposition from obtaining a precious away goal.
“In Europe you’ve got to be cautious and especially as a defender, we have been conceding goals and conceding one tonight would have been pretty disappointing because of the away goal rule.
“When the opportunity arises myself and Bermo [Ian Bermingham] like to get forward. Bermo nearly gets on the end of a cross from Billy [Dennehy] and I managed to get probably four or five decent crosses into the box in the first half. But we kept a clean sheet more importantly and if I can contribute going forward next week great, but more importantly we want a clean sheet again.”
With the second leg taking place next Tuesday in Luxembourg, the Saints will fly directly into Luxembourg on Monday morning and the defender told Extratime.ie that after a hectic schedule which saw Liam Buckley’s side playing twice in five days, O’Brien is looking forward to some recovery time as their league game which was originally scheduled for Friday evening was instead played last month.
“Our European schedule is quite hectic and the importance of getting through a round [due to the financial rewards on offer for clubs greatly exceeding the League of Ireland prize money] so I think other teams have been quite obliging to move fixtures for us,” he said after Finn Harps moved their league game from July 1st to May 17th.
“People don’t realise that we just played Friday, they didn’t and we only had three days turn around and after a tough game up in Dundalk, we’ll have a full week now to rest and recover and maybe them fresh legs next week can make a difference going over there.”
After comparing the difference between the Jeunesse that they watched on video and the Jeunesse that played at Richmond Park, O’Brien revealed that they were two completely different sides.
“Yeah, I think so” he replied when asked if his side will learn much from Tuesday’s game.
“Going in you don’t know what the wingers are like, you don’t know what the centre forwards are like, you don’t know what the centre halves are like.
“You only see video of them, but until you see them in the flesh and know when come up against you in a one-v-one situations, how good they really are and in fairness to them, they are a decent side and I’m sure they’ll come and look to get at us next week, but we need to be ready and make sure we have our own game plan in place.
“If we can get one goal, especially [the] first [goal] it changes the whole complexity of the game.”