Monday 23 September 2019

Super St Patrick's Athletic jumping for joy with league title

Buckley's men clinch title in style to silence critics

Greg Bolger (L) celebrates after scoring St Patrick's Athletic's first goal with team-mate Killian Brennan against Sligo Rovers at Richmond Park yesterday
Greg Bolger (L) celebrates after scoring St Patrick's Athletic's first goal with team-mate Killian Brennan against Sligo Rovers at Richmond Park yesterday
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

ST Patrick's Athletic silenced their critics by seeing off holders Sligo Rovers 2-0 to become League of Ireland champions for the eighth time.

Liam Buckley's side, who had their ambition and mentality questioned at the beginning of the season, produced another big performance when it mattered to take the three points required to wrap up the title with two games to spare.

They were watched by President Michael D Higgins and the club's owner Garrett Kelleher, who has ploughed in a significant seven-figure sum since coming on board in 2007. This was his first taste of silverware after near misses in the league, FAI Cup and Setanta Cup.

Last night, he pledged his continued support to the Inchicore outfit. "It's great for the community," said Kelleher. "It's a family club and I'm the caretaker."

Defender Ian Bermingham admitted it was a sweet moment after a year which started under a cloud after assistant boss Trevor Croly and three first-team players – Barry Murphy, James Chambers and Sean O'Connor – departed for Shamrock Rovers. The latter questioned the ambition in Dublin 8.

"I knew at the start of the season that we'd go and win it," declared Bermingham. "I thought we were definitely going to win the league. They (critics) can say what they want. People said the mentality of the club was wrong but every single one of the lads in that dressing-room was a winner.

"We knew at the start of the season that we could go on and win it. We didn't go shouting our mouths off but we proved people wrong. We don't take any notice of what anyone is saying because we know how good we are.

"We lost a few players, and they were quality players, but we replaced them with as much quality, if not better."

Midfielder Greg Bolger reflected on a comprehensive defeat to Rovers in March which served as the catalyst for a title push.

"Getting battered by Rovers was our turning point. After that game, there was a lot of home truths told," he said. "It's been a long hard season.

"To be fair, we're a footballing team, we go out and try pass the teams off the pitch. Liam gives us the licence to go out and play – he's got a great eye for a player."

Indeed, a notable aspect of the Saints' achievement is that only one member of their starting XI – Killian Brennan – had tasted league success before this year.

Striker Anto Flood, who added to Bolger's opener, feels the current group can look to make a proper push towards the Champions League group stages in 2014 if they stick together.

"When anyone has asked us anything, we have always answered the questions," said Flood. "It's a great club and a great squad of players. Everybody put their necks on the line."

League joy will be worth close to €500,000 for the Saints when UEFA money is taken into consideration. Liam Buckley feels that his team are capable of making an impact in Europe if he can tie down the current group of players and add fresh bodies over the winter. He was fulsome in his praise for Kelleher, saying: "When I spoke to Garrett (in December 2011), I said that I would take the job because of him He wants us to do well, and our sponsors have been magnificent as well. I am delighted for him."

Irish Independent

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