Lynch mob are ready to claim Saints' scalp
TWO contrasting Dublin derbies take place on Sunday and while the traditionalists will head to Dalymount for the blood and thunder of Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers, the purists will be off to Belfield for the clash of the League's two most skilful sides, UCD and St Patrick's Athletic.
With three successive wins under their belts, UCD are this month's form team and having taken the scalps of Cork City and Finn Harps they are approaching Sunday's derby with confidence.
``We feel that we always have a chance against the top teams,'' admitted skipper Aidan Lynch who was one of the stars of last week's 2-1 over leaders Cork City.
``Cork are a team we always seem to play well against and we won down there last season as well.''
For the first time, UCD are actually enjoying the second round of the National League after previously struggling over the middle stretch.
Manager Theo Dunne feels the decision not to play pre-season friendlies against visiting clubs was a major factor but Lynch also revealed that the attitude among the players is different.
``After the Bohs game we sat down and told ourselves that this is where we normally let ourselves down so everybody is now training very hard and we all want to do well in the middle third,'' explained Lynch.
At the start of the season UCD lost four quality players in goalkeeper Seamus Kelly (to Cardiff), midfielder Robbie Griffin (to Waterford) and striker Jason Sherlock and defender Terry Palmer (to Shamrock Rovers).
Their departure had the experts predicting instant relegation and Lynch admits he too had his fears.
``I was worried be honest. I knew the players from the B team were very good but I didn't know if they would be able to adapt to playing in the Premier Division.
``But we haven't had to worry about them at all and while we miss the experience of the lads who left, we haven't lost out on quality.''
Barry Ryan has taken over seamlessly from Kelly in goal, while Alan Mahon, Clive Delaney, Graham Brett and Robert McAuley have all slotted into defence with Ciaran Martyn producing dynamic performances in midfield. Robert Dunne has shown his versatility in midfield and defence, up front Eoin Bennis has scored four times this season, while 17-year-old Glen Fitzpatrick has grabbed three in his last two games.
``Glen Fitzpatrick is the biggest surprise of all because he is only 17. He's great at holding up the ball and he's taken his goals well. He's a different player to Eoin Bennis but they have both done really well.''
Fitzpatrick, Martyn and Delaney spent the past week training with Brian Kerr's U-18 side and could very well follow in the footsteps of Lynch who was a member of Ireland's U-20 side at the 1997 World Cup in Malaysia.
Looking forward to Sunday, when Belfield will house its biggest crowd of the season, Lynch reckons Pat's have a chink in their armour.
``Last year they seem invincible but this year because Pat Dolan is not in the dugout they don't seem as fearsome. Liam Buckley is a very good manager and has done very well but Dolan's presence seemed to give them an extra edge that's missing now.
``But they are a very good team and have some great players like Ian Gilzean and Trevor Molloy but our new lads aren't aware of the reputations of the players they are coming up against so that's a big help.''
Lynch is in his final year studying economics and maths and come five o'clock on Sunday he hopes to be calculating how many points UCD need to make a Euro spot.