Tuesday 12 December 2017

Crunch time for Saints' league bid -- Mahon


JULY, says St Patrick's Athletic manager Pete Mahon, will be a defining month for his club. "We play Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk, Bohemians and Sligo, and if you told me we'd be top of the league after that, I'd bite your hand off -- and be fairly confident that we'd win the league," he said.

The Premier Division is more competitive this year and Mahon asserts, "Every minute of every game is intense. It's lucky we have a team doctor on site, especially at my age."

There is one thing missing, though, and Pat's trip to Reykjavik last Thursday for Europa League duty provided Mahon with a reminder. "We played at Valur's ground, and what a range of facilities they have. I would love if we had the same facilities as we saw in Iceland, but it's the one thing lacking in the Airtricity League."

However, he is grateful the club pushed out the boat to help the players, most of whom were making their European debuts. "They chartered a plane, which was just as well as some of our fans experienced six-hour delays at Gatwick, and our preparation couldn't have been better." While the 1-0 defeat keeps the tie alive for Thursday's return leg (7.45), Mahon is cautious. "I haven't been involved with an Irish team -- be it at club or international level -- which created so many chances in Europe, but we didn't take them, and we have it all to do," he said.

"IBV have a very good team, especially their front six. They finished third last season and are currently second in Iceland. They have a mix of English, Icelandic, Swedish, Ukrainian and Ugandan, so it's a game to look forward to."

Not so inviting for the winners is the prospect of a 5,000km trip to Kazakhstan, but Mahon has other things on his mind, namely today's top-of-the-table clash with Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium (2.0). "I'm glad we're playing Rovers, because it's a better game to come back to than a trip to, say, Galway, with all due respects to them."

There is also a little bit of needle because of Rovers' insistence on the game going ahead today. "We wanted to play on Monday, and in fairness they said they would move it back to six o'clock, but the Gardai had a problem with that.

"I'm sure they were seeking an advantage by not moving to Monday. The co-operation that used to be there doesn't appear to be there anymore. We co-operated with Dundalk last year, and we represented Bohs at the draw this year, so we have our way of doing things while other clubs have their way." Pat's hope to be at full strength, with Danny North the only doubt. For Rovers, Chris Turner is suspended and Karl Sheppard is injured.

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