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Saints now need a miracle

LIAM Buckley admits that, barring a "minor miracle", his St Patrick's Athletic side are already out of the title race.

A 2-0 defeat at home to leaders Dundalk means that the Saints are now a massive 16 points behind the reigning champions, and their form against the top-three sides (Pats have not scored a goal in five meetings so far this season with Dundalk, Cork City and Shamrock Rovers) does not suggest that a challenge is on the way.

"It would be a minor miracle for them to lose six games," Buckley (inset) says of Dundalk and his team's hopes of catching up.

"I've been disappointed with how we have performed this season. We've only done it in fits and starts. We've lost of some stupid games and our performances haven't merited us being higher up the table at times. We've just got to take it and work harder," added Buckley as their next game - a clash with Shamrock Rovers on Friday, the first test in their defence of the FAI Cup - now has even more significance.

Their disciplinary record is poor (second-worst in the league) while injuries have not helped (senior pros like Ger O'Brien and Chris Fagan missing out), yet other players have under-performed.

Youngsters like Jamie McGrath (a very impressive sub in the loss to Dundalk), Lee Desmond and Sean Hoare offer some hope of a bright future but Buckley knows that a response is needed.

"There are certainly areas we can improve," he says.

"There is a lot to play for. There is first, second and third and it's vitally important that we chase that and there is the cup and we've also got Europe but we do need to play better, from 1-11, through the middle, have a better understanding of how we play and take responsibility for how we play and push on for the rest of the season."

St Patrick's athletic