It has been an active off-season for St. Patrick's Athletic as Head Coach Stephen O'Donnell embraces huge changes at Richmond Park. O'Donnell was brought in as Head Coach of St. Patrick's Athletic in August, replacing Harry Kenny, and enjoyed an im
It has been an active off-season for St. Patrick's Athletic as Head Coach Stephen O'Donnell embraces huge changes at Richmond Park.
O'Donnell was brought in as Head Coach of St. Patrick's Athletic in August, replacing Harry Kenny, and enjoyed an impressive start. Having won his first match in charge against Finn Harps, O'Donnell's side only suffered two league defeats and claimed an impressive victory at Derry City in the final weeks of the campaign.
The former Dundalk captain has embraced the off-season and has looked to build a new look Pats as they aim to challenge for the European spots in 2020.
The first signings announced showed the type of hungry, young, talented footballer O'Donnell is targeting. Jay McClelland and Conor Kearns signed from UCD AFC, Rory Feely returned to the club from Waterford and Shane Griffin joined from Cork City.
The signing which really caught the eye and the attention of the SSE Airtricity League was the capture of Robbie Benson. The former Dundalk midfielder made the switch to link up with his former teammate having won three league titles with the Lilywhites.
A huge statement of intent from the club, Benson is one of the outstanding players in the league and the 27-year old's experience will be a huge benefit to those young players around him, none more so than Jamie Lennon who has re-signed for the upcoming campaign.
Furthermore, keep an eye out for Luke McNally in 2020. The centre-back enjoyed an incredible season on loan at Drogheda United last season and if he can bring his form into the upcoming campaign, expect McNally to be in and around the starting XI.
O'Donnell has supplemented the signings of young, talented players with a bit more experience in the form of Billy King. King has signed from Greenock Morton in Scotland having previously played for Hearts where he made over 100 appearances for the club, and over 50 appearances for Dundee United.
Benson and captain Ian Bermingham have stated in interviews with the official club channel that Pats will be targeting the 'top two' and given the current state of the squad, Pats supporters should be fairly optimistic that they can do that.
But, it is in front of goal where Pats really need to improve. They scored just 29 goals in the league last season and if they will have any chance of challenging the top two, they will need to double that tally at the very least.
Mikey Drennan and Glen McAuley were released but promising young striker Jake Walker has signed a new deal as well as James Doona who impressed in the latter part of last season. Ronan Hale also remains at the club after he signed on an 18-month deal from Crusaders in August.
If O'Donnell can get the best out of Hale, it could go a long way to solving any goal-scoring problems. The 21-year old has five caps for the Ireland U-21s and scored two goals for the side against Iceland and Israel. His loan spell at Derry City in 2018 was successful, scoring eight goals for the club and went on to lift the EA SPORTS Cup with the Candystripes.
His move to Belfast side Crusaders didn't work out but there is no doubting Hale's obvious talent and that he needs a real run of games to kick-start his career. He scored a last-minute winner on his debut for Pats against Cork City and whilst O'Donnell has shown a number of players the door in the off-season, he obviously feels Hale is a player he can work with in the future.
It will be a huge task to challenge the top two but O'Donnell is building a squad which looks like it could be capable of doing that this season and in the future. The most encouraging aspect of the latter part of the campaign for Pats was the rejuvenated form of Chris Forrester.
Forrester took time to get back up to speed having joined from Aberdeen at the start of last season, but towards the end of the campaign, he was beginning to show signs of his former self.
Pats are a hugely exciting prospect next season and if O'Donnell can get his new squad to gel over the course of pre-season, with the influence of Alan Mathews on the management staff, Richmond Park will be the place to be in 2020.