Season Preview 2024: St. Patrick’s Athletic

Manager: Jon Day

Stadium: Richmond Park

In: Brandon Kavanagh (Derry City), Cian Kavanagh (Derry City), Ruairi Keating (Cork City), Aaron Bolger (Cork City), Conor Keeley (Drogheda United), Marcelo Piteluga (LIverpool - loan), Alfie Taylor (Hull City - loan), Luke Turner (Cliftonville).

Out: Conor Carty (Bolton Wanderers - end of loan), Mark Doyle (Rhode Island FC), Thijs Thimmermans, Serge Atakayi, Harry Brockbank (Radcliffe), Ben McCormack (Waterford), Adam Murphy (Bristol City), Darius Lipsiuc (Stoke City), Dean Lyness (Hamilton Academicals), Sam Curtis (Sheffield United), David Odumosu (Cliftonville), David Norman (Vancouver FC), Tommy Lonergan (Fleetwood Town).

Re-signed: Danny Rogers, Tom Grivosti, Jason McClelland, Ryan McLaughlin, Joe Redmond, Chris Forrester. key player: Chris Forrester

There were a few candidates for the title of key player this year. Players like Joe Redmond, Jamie Lennon, and new signing Ruairi Keating will all need to have big seasons if Pats are to contend with Shamrock Rovers for their prized possession and stop the drive for five. 

Although, there is still one player that the Saints need to have a big season if they want to want to continue the momentum gained from the appointment of Jon Daly which culminated with FAI Cup glory, and that is Chris Forrester. 

The midfield maestro, despite turning 31 recently, is the star man still and they will need him to have another stellar season if The Athletic are to be successful domestically again. 

The Smithfield man had his best goal scoring season last year finishing with 19 goal contributions (15G, 4A) in 42 appearances across all competitions and finished the club’s top goal scorer. Forrester was lethal in front of goal last term, outperforming his xG of 8.47. 

Forrester’s game has changed over the years from the flair playmaker to an all-action number 8 in the centre of the park. But his deft touches, clever feet and vision make him the heartbeat of the team. 

St. Pat’s have strengthened in transfer market during the winter, especially in the midfield department. 

Despite the loss of Adam Murphy, the signings of Aaron Bolger, Brandon Kavanagh, and the arrival last summer of Kian Leavy give more options for Jon Daly to pick from. 

While the signing of Keating gives the club a focal point and a proven goal scorer up top at this level, which they have lacked since the days of Christy Fagan. 

If Forrester is to maintain his form along with his new supporting cast of Keating, Leavy, and Kavanagh behind him, Pats could be in for a good year ahead. one to watch: Brandon Kavanagh 

As mentioned above, the Saints have been active in the transfer market the last couple months. Two areas of the squad where Pats needed to address and strengthen from last year was a goal threat up front and more creativity. 

Last season, Pats outperformed their xG by 11.4, having scored 59 times (the second highest in the league) with the xG at 47.6. 

In terms of creativity, Pats struggled to open sides up compared to rivals Shamrock Rovers and Derry City when we look at the statistics from the 2023 season. 

Pats were ranked sixth for passes into the final third, compared to Rovers who are first and Derry second.  

With progressive passes, Pats finished sixth again as Rovers and Derry ranked first and second again. 

While touches in the opposition penalty area Pats were seventh with Rovers first once again and Derry this time slightly lower in third. 

When opposition teams face St. Pats and play a low block, it can be the Saints kryptonite sometimes as last season showed losing 12 league games. 

The addition of Brandon Kavanagh is hoped to be a remedy to this issue. The attacking midfielder has been a creative source for goals the past three seasons, grabbing 19 assists. Pats had no player in the top 10 assist maker’s last season. 

If Kavanagh was to hit the ground running and support the creative minds already in the squad such as Jake Mulraney, it could be the difference in those tight games were the Saints dropped needless points when chasing down Rovers. 

How they did last season: 

League: Third

Last season couldn’t have started worse. After 13 league games, the Saints had lost five league games, including defeats to rivals Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians, Sligo Rovers (twice) and a humiliating 5-0 away defeat to Stephen O’Donnell’s Dundalk. 

After three losses in a row, the Pats faithful turned on Tim Clancy after the loss to Sligo at home and the Meath man was swiftly relived of his duties. His replacement was his assistant Jon Daly, initially on a temporary basis. 

The reaction to the news of Daly’s appointment was met with mixed reception from fans with many seeing it as an unaspiring choice. 

However, it proved the opposite as the club’s form drastically improved with victories against Dundalk, Shelbourne, and Cork City saw Jon Daly become the boss on a permanent basis. 

There was impressive wins throughout the season including a 4-1 victory against Derry City, and a 7-0 hammering of UCD. Daly after taking the job permanently averaged 1.96 points per game. 

After finding real momentum in the second part of the 2023 season, it looked at times that Pats might play themselves into the title race and capitalise on Shamrock Rovers inconsistency.

However, defeats to Shelbourne away and Drogheda United at home killed any chance of creating a title deciding showdown in Richmond Park when Rovers arrived for the penultimate game of the league. 

After a disappointing start to the league campaign, St. Pats turned it around under the stewardship of Jon Daly to finish the season third and guaranteeing a third consecutive season in the UEFA Europa Conference League qualifiers 

FAI Cup: Winners

Pats had the unusual record of playing every round of the cup away from home starting with a first-round tie victory to First Division side Longford Town. 

The most difficult test on the way to the final was the second-round clash against 2022 FAI Cup champions Derry City. After a 0-0 stalemate after 120 minutes of football, the Saints held their nerve to get through on penalties with 16-year-old Mason Melia scoring the winning spot kick. 

Wins against Finn Harps and Cork City in the Quarter and Semi Finals set up a rematch of the 2021 FAI Cup Final against north side rivals Bohemians. 

Despite Bohs taking the lead through a Jonathan Afolabi penalty, The Athletic held their nerve to come back to win 3-1 and seal cup success for the second time in three years. 

Highest ever attendance for FAI Cup Final, defeating your rivals for the second time in three years, doesn’t get better that for the Saints. 

Europe: UEFA Europa Conference League first qualifying round

After a good showing in the Europa Conference League in 2022, progressing against NS Mura, going close against CSKA Sofia, and having earned a nice figure of around €750,000 for making the third qualifying round, the club and fans would have hoped to replicate the performances in 2023.  

However, this was not to happen. 

The Athletic drew F91 Dudelange in the first round of qualifying and lost 2-1 away in the first leg. A late Mark Doyle strike gave hope that a turnaround was possible in Inchicore. 

Despite levelling the tie in Richmond Park, a second half collapse saw the Luxembourgish side go through to the second round. 

Oege-Sietse van Lingen is a name the Pats fan will be happy not to see again. 

What to expect this season:

When Pats won the cup in 2021, there was great optimism for the 2022 season, well for about 24 hours or so. 

Over the following days, the manager had walked away, key players headed for the exits and a rebuild was required once again at Richmond Park. 

However this time around its different. The majority of the squad has remained and most importantly Jon Daly will be in the dug out to lead his men for the year ahead. 

While they have lost key players who they would have liked to kept around like Sam Curtis and Dean Lyness, and others who featured heavily last term such as Mark Doyle, and Adam Murphy will be a loss but Pats have, on paper, completed good business in the transfer market to replace the outgoings. 

The aim for the Saints will be wanting to close the gap further on Rovers, at least stay in touching distance of the Tallaght side when it gets to the crunch near the back end of the season. 

If the new signings can hit the ground running, key players find form, and then maybe we could have our first title race since the Caulfield v Kenny days, and wouldn’t that be nice for the league. 

European ambitions, they will want to replicate the performances of 2022 rather than 2023. Getting through rounds of Europe is always good for the coffers. 

Pats fans are quietly optimistic ahead of the new campaign. They will be hoping that Jon Daly’s men will have Inchicore bouncing again. 

First Game: 

St. Patrick’s Athletic face champions Shamrock Rovers in the President’s Cup this Friday in the season curtain raiser before kicking off their league campaign against newly promoted Galway United in Eamon Deasy Park the following week.