Saturday 24 February 2018

'St Pat's might need to win last two games to stay up' - Kerr

St Pat’s will be looking to Killian Brennan to produce a big performance against Cork tonight. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
St Pat’s will be looking to Killian Brennan to produce a big performance against Cork tonight. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The relegation battle has been the recurring story of this League of Ireland season and there's a possibility that it could finally be resolved this weekend.

That is the nightmare scenario for everyone involved with Galway United, who find themselves a point behind St Patrick's Athletic and Sligo Rovers with two series of games to go.

Put simply, if Galway lose in Limerick tonight and St Patrick's Athletic and Sligo Rovers win their penultimate games of a long and testing campaign, it will be all over.

While there has always been a sense that it will go right the wire, no one in Galway will have enjoyed Cork City's draw with Derry City last Tuesday which meant that both teams had achieved their aim for the season.

Cork travel to Inchicore to face Pat's tonight after the exhilaration of being crowned champions, while Derry visit Sligo tomorrow safe in the knowledge that they have already qualified to play in Europe next season.

Avoiding

Galway, meanwhile, have a job to do away to Limerick, who still need a point to be sure of avoiding the drop .

And Shane Keegan's side are also relying on the motivation and intensity levels of teams that would be favourites to win tonight in normal circumstances.

It's a long time since St Pat's have faced the prospect of relegation and they have called for a big response from their supporters for tonight's visit of champions Cork.

Former Saints manager Brian Kerr, remains a passionate supporter of the club and admits to be being apprehensive about the club's situation. "I've been very anxious most of the season," said Kerr. "People ask me who I follow and I tell them that I follow Pat's.

"People are getting upset about Ireland or teams in England, but those results don't upset me. Pat's results upset me if they lose and this season has been hard going and very worrying.

"The match against Limerick (13 days ago) when they conceded a 94th-minute goal (to draw 2-2) it was a killer. Losing those two points might get Pat's relegated.

"I think they have shown enough in the last few games - if they'd shown that form from the start of the season they wouldn't be in the trouble they are in.

"They had a little run of winning four games and drawing one and I felt at that stage they were starting to look like a team that could get points off anyone in the league, whereas prior to that they looked capable of losing to anyone.

"I think it's possible for them to win their last two games and they might need to do that because they have no control over the other matches."

Kerr believes that Saints manager Liam Buckley made mistakes with some of his recruitment before the campaign started, having generally excelled in that department previously.

And he credits owner Garrett Kelleher for digging into his pocket in the summer to facilitate the signings of Killian Brennan, Owen Garvan and Jordi Balk and add some steel and experience to the dressing room.

"They lost some players who had good experience and the fellas who have come in have not done well," said Kerr.

"This year, I don't know what the policy was but it appeared it was to bring through some fellas from the successful underage teams.

"For me, they just weren't good enough or strong enough to get results. And some of the players they signed didn't do it either. The realisation of that probably came around match 15 or 16 and they have tried to rectify it.

"Sligo are in the same situation. They had a lot of success and built it up but it's slipped away on them over a few seasons.

"I see it between Galway, Sligo and Pat's for the last place. I think Finn Harps are unlikely to escape."

Harps are four points behind Galway and five from safety and their fate could be sealed over the weekend if results go against them regardless of whether they beat the already doomed Drogheda United in Ballybofey.

The decision to cull the Premier Division from 12 teams to 10 has made this a harsh season for struggling clubs. In previous years, finishing in the position of 11th would have good enough to earn a promotion-relegation play-off and Harps manager Ollie Horgan might have considered that a decent campaign.

But not this season, and nerves are frayed with livelihoods at stake.

Limerick (39 pts, -9)

Tonight: Galway (h). Oct 27: Shamrock Rovers (a).

St Patrick's Athletic (35 pts, -9)

Tonight: Cork City (h). Oct 27: Derry (a).

Sligo Rovers (35 pts, -14)

Tomorrow: Derry (h). Oct 27: Drogheda (a).

Galway United (34 pts, -4)

Tonight: Limerick (a). Oct 27: Dundalk (h).

Finn Harps (30 pts, -29)

Tonight: Drogheda (h). Oct 27: Bohs (a).

* Drogheda United (18 pts, -44 GD)

Oct 20: Finn Harps (a). Oct 27: Sligo (h).

* Already relegated

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