WHEN St Patrick's Athletic suffered a home defeat to Dundalk at the beginning of this month, some Inchicore regulars felt they were watching a team in decline.
A difficult winter featuring the departure of assistant manager Trevor Croly and three key players to Shamrock Rovers raised questions about the Saints' future, with one of the movers, Sean O'Connor, suggesting that there was a lack of ambition in Liam Buckley's dressing-room.
Just over three weeks later, the mood has altered. Four straight wins have catapulted St Pat's into contention ahead of tonight's meeting with Derry City at Richmond Park.
The positive vibes have been enhanced by the announcement of a deal which will see their jerseys carry the name of Clune Construction, a US interior construction management firm, for the rest of 2013.
Defender Ger O'Brien attributes the upturn to detailed dressing-room discussions in the aftermath of the Dundalk reverse.
"We sat down and said that, even this early in the season, it could be a defining moment," said O'Brien. "We decided that it was time to start taking off the shackles a little bit. We played with a bit of fear in the first couple of games. I think it helps, in any line of work, when you clear the air. We haven't conceded a goal since."