St Patrick's Athletic boss Stephen O'Donnell says Friday night's strong showing in Oriel Park was a testament to the hard work of his players during the lockdown.
The Saints matched the champions in a 1-1 draw, even though the Lilywhites were back in training a few weeks ahead of O'Donnell's charges.
Pat's are back in action tonight with Derry City at Richmond Park.
"I'm delighted with the attitude and the application of the players more than anything," said O'Donnell. "I thought their fitness levels from having just a near-on pre-season after three months off was a credit to them and the way they've looked after themselves over this uncertain period."
O'Donnell was thrilled with the contribution of new recruits Jordan Gibson (ex-Bradford) and Latvian David Titovs (ex-Brentford). Gibson was a handful in a central striking role, and the manager says the speedster is equally comfortable in any of the positions across the front-three. The availability of Georgie Kelly, a loan recruit from Dundalk, gives the manager the option to freshen things up.
Gibson and Titov were signed on short-term deals on the strength of video evidence. The homework looks to have paid off.
"The boys (Gibson and Titov) have no Irish connections so when you say 'League of Ireland' straight away they're probably thinking, 'I've never really followed the League of Ireland' so you've got to convince them it would be a good career move for them, it's a good standard and there are a lot of good players in the league," said O'Donnell.
"I'm happy with the way the lads played but there's still more to come and we're still going to be demanding a lot more from them."
The Galwegian confirmed that the shutdown uncertainty did cause a couple of his Irish players to opt against a return. Youngster Jake Walker has left, and winger Dean Clarke has embarked down another road.
"Dean has left," he said, "During the lockdown he pursued a bit more personal training, and he got deeper and deeper into that when the break came.
"It was an amicable one. He rang me up and said he was probably not going to come back playing. You're not going to force someone to come back so we wish Dean all the best."