KILLIAN BRENNAN insists that his St Patrick's Athletic side have the hunger needed to make a real push for the league title this season.
A Sligo Rovers side laden with medal winners heads to Dublin tonight to face St Pat's at Richmond Park with one player (Joseph Ndo), owner of no fewer than four league medals, while the bulk of last season's championship-winning side is still intact.
The Pat's dressing room has not been as fortunate when it comes to silverware as Brennan, who lifted the title with Bohemians (2008 and 2009), is the only player from the 19-man squad which has played in the league this season to have won a league medal (Aidan Price did help Shamrock Rovers win the Premier title in 2010 but he has not featured for the Saints so far this season).
Pat's have knocked on the door so often in recent seasons, with top-three finishes and Cup final appearances but no trophy for more than a decade now, and while Sligo have set the pace in 2013 with that stunning eight-game winning run, Brennan is adamant that the current Saints squad are desperate for success.
"Hunger is the bottom line in this game, everything else comes after that," says Brennan.
"You need to have ability to match that hunger, you need to have good players around you and good players in your team, but if you're not hungry to succeed then you will never do anything.
"I have been lucky enough to win a league but not many lads in the Pat's squad have a league medal and that has to change.
"It's not just about ability, you need players who will do whatever is needed to win games. I have played in teams where it was a case of players being hungry, from one to eleven, it was like that at Bohs, especially the first year we won the league there," added Brennan.
"It's a different set-up now, we have a different squad here at Pat's but I think we have a team that is good enough to win a league, we just need to show the hunger and desire to do that."
If St Pat's are to bridge that 15-season gap and win the league title, they will have to finish above a Sligo Rovers side who have looked anything but weak this season – before Tuesday's Setanta Cup defeat to Drogheda United it was a case of 10 games and 10 wins for Ian Baraclough's men. Pat's will also have to fend off a Derry City side who have crept up nicely with a very impressive five-game winning streak, so it's a big week ahead for Pat's as they take on Sligo tonight and Derry next Friday.
"We have a hard run ahead of us now, the top two in Sligo and Derry coming to Inchicore, but we have a game in hand. I'd have preferred to get the game in hand out of the way before we play all the big sides but if we are going to be in contention we need to be beating these teams either way. If we're going to challenge for the league we have to beat the likes of Sligo and Derry and Shamrock Rovers," Brennan explained.
"Someone has to stop Sligo, whether we're good enough to do it we have to see but we'll be doing our damndest to make that happen.
"We're feeling confident now, three wins in a row and four goals scored in our last game, so we move on to the Sligo game. When you win games like that it raises expectations and we have to deal with that but we have nothing to lose against Sligo.
"We're enjoying our football and playing well so we'll be in confident mood for this game tonight.
"We're looking forward to the game and we want to beat them because I think we have the potential to go on a good run, but I know that doing it and talking about it are two different things.
"It's early days in the season but if we could beat Sligo, beat Derry and win our game in hand, we'd be right up there. Sligo have won eight in a row, Drogheda did something similar last season and if we could do something similar then we'd have a great chance."
In pre-season the major concern for Pat's fans was the course of their goals, with a real worry over whether Chris Fagan could shoulder the burden. Fagan has been dropped for the last three games as Anto Flood was preferred up front, but for Brennan it's a positive that the rest of the team are contributing.
"I think it's a good sign for us that we're not relying on one man to score goals, the way some teams do. The midfielders are all chipping in, I've scored one, Shane McFaul and Conan Byrne as well and, of course, Christopher Forrester (below) is on fire," he says.
"When you add in the fact that the back four are doing so well, three clean sheets in a row now, we've given ourselves a great platform."