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Conan Byrne: Pats' priority will be the league

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Conan Byrne

Conan Byrne

Conan Byrne

WITH THE FAI Cup now taking up residence at Richmond Park for the next 12 months, St Patrick's Athletic winger Conan Byrne believes that Inchicore is the only place to be next season.

And he has already set the club a target of regaining the league title which was surrendered to Dundalk this season.

RELAXATION

After a busy year which saw them play 46 competitive games - only Dundalk played more matches in 2014 - the Saints players are enjoying a week of relaxation and celebration on the back on Sunday's FAI Cup success.

There won't be much time off for manager Liam Buckley as he will need to act fast to make the changes required to prepare the squad for next term. Players like Eoin Wearen (Bohemians) and Gary McCabe (Shamrock Rovers) have already been linked with moves to Pats as Buckley is aware that stars of the Cup-winning side like Chris Fagan, Christopher Forrester and Ian Bermingham could spark cross-channel interest.

In recent seasons, Saints men like Conor Kenna and Seán O'Connor have opted to leave the club but Byrne, an ever-present in the league in 2014, does not expect to see any of his team-mates wanting to leave.

"Liam will sit down with some of the lads in the coming weeks and try to re-sign the majority of the squad , he will want to bring in new, fresh players but I can't see anyone wanting to leave this club," says Byrne, after landing the second Cup medal of his career.

"We can't just let things finish here with the Cup win, we have to make sure we come back strong next season, as a team and as a club.

"The aim now has to be getting the league trophy back here. We have targets for next year already, we want to progress in Europe after two years of not making it through a round but winning the league has to be the main aim."

Since he took over as Saints boss at the start of the 2012 season, Buckley had tended to make changes to the panel when needed. Ahead of their league-winning season (2013) Buckley oversaw the exit of nine senior players, including two who would go on to win league medals with Dundalk in 2014 (Darren Meenan, Mark Rossiter) but signings such as Conan Byrne and Killian Brennan proved to be very fruitful.

At the start of this season Buckley brought in seven new faces - Keith Fahey, Lee Lynch and a full five-a-side team from Shamrock Rovers - with eight departures.

And Buckley will be keen to add to the squad for the 2015 campaign. The mid-season departure to Watford of Rene Gilmartin forced Buckley to include goalkeeping coach Pat Jennings as his back-up keeper so the Saints boss will add another player in that position to provide back-up to Brendan Clarke.

Senior pros Ken Oman and Mark Quigley made only sporadic appearances in 2014 and they may now move on. Youngsters Jack Bayly, Rory Feely, Sam Verdon and Jamie McGrath all made league appearances last season and they will all try to make more of an impression in 2015. Aaron Greene, signed mid-way through the season from Sligo Rovers, missed the Cup win as he was cup-tied but he will be like a new signing for next season.

Pats can start 2015 without the burden of a five-decade wait for an FAI Cup win. "It's a great feat for the club, to end that long hoodoo and get that monkey off our backs in terms of the FAI Cup. I'm just so happy we got over the line," says Byrne, previously a winner with Sporting Fingal in 2009.

"We always had fans coming up to us taking about the fact that we hadn't won the Cup in so long. Even last year when we were winning the league, some fans were saying to the players that they'd prefer to win the FAI Cup ahead of the league. That's what it means to the fans, we know that.

CELEBRATIONS

"I missed most of the celebrations with Sporting Fingal as I was off to Zambia the next morning, I was home by 11pm the night we won the Cup as I was flying out first thing the next day so the celebrations this year were a bit different," he added.

"We were thrilled with the move for the first goal. Killian passed it out to me, I played it first time out to 'Fats' (Keith Fahey) , Keith did what he does best, he dribbled down the line and put in a great cross for Christy. We said before the game that if Keith Fahey showed his class we'd win the game and that's what happened."


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