Thursday 23 February 2017

Mahon's mind on eastern promise as Pat's save point

St Patrick's Ath 2, Dundalk 2

Miguel Delaney

Despite coming through one of the most action-packed games of the season against Dundalk, St Patrick's Athletic have seen nothing yet, it seems.

Yesterday's thrilling draw is going to pale in comparison to the bumps of a 10,000km round trip for Thursday's Europa League tie with Kazakhstani side Shakhter Karagandy. Particularly since, as of last night, manager Pete Mahon still didn't know how his team were going to get there.

"It's either a charter to Amsterdam and then Astana... or a camel trek," he joked.

Pat's have had to contend with a range of issues: from visas and peculiar flight paths to staff getting time off work. The squad will spend a full 24 hours travelling on three separate flights between Tuesday and Wednesday without even getting to train or see the stadium until they arrive for the match.

"Before Thursday, I was a bit flippant about it," Mahon said. "But, once reality set in on Friday, we spent four hours here on the phone. We haven't even got definitive travel arrangements yet.

"We have flights booked, but they're not ideal. We're hoping we might get a bit of luck in the morning and a charter plane from Amsterdam. This is a crazy fixture in terms of where it is.

asia

"I was really excited about Europe and I still am because it's a great competition. But they're not a European country. They're Asia."

Mahon hasn't even had an opportunity to see the opposition: "I'll have to plead honesty and ignorance: I don't know anything about them. We will get some DVDs but they'll be over there when we get there.

"There are lads who can't get off work -- three of them had to pay somebody to stand in for them."

There are also doubts about Paul Crowley -- who was subbed off in yesterday's draw with a hamstring injury -- and the absent Daniel North and Brian Shortall.

"The amount of fixtures we're playing is starting to take its toll on us now," said Mahon.

That possibly explains the Saints' unusually lax defensive performance yesterday.

In a helter-skelter game Derek Doyle volleyed the opener from a 12th-minute corner before Dundalk stunned Mahon's side with two goals either side of half-time.

Marc Griffin fired home before Keith Ward scrambled a set-piece over the line. Despite calls for a Pat's penalty, Doyle struck again with a header to save a point. And, still, the real action starts today.

ST PATRICK'S ATHLETIC -- Rogers; Pender, Bermingham, Guthrie, E McMillan; McFaul, Doyle, Murphy, Crowley (Stewart 79); Kavanagh, Daly (D McMillan 63).

DUNDALK - Cherrie; Maher, Murphy, Madden, Bennett, Ward; Bolger, Kearns, Gaynor; Quigley, Griffin (Breen 81).

REF - R Winter (Dublin)

Irish Independent

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