‘Seven games gone it’s really nothing’

By Daire Walsh

They may be sitting in top spot at the summit of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division table with seven games gone, but St Patrick’s Athletic head coach Stephen O’Donnell insists his side aren’t getting ahead of themselves just yet.

Following last Friday’s 2-0 victory over Finn Harps, the Saints leapfrogged reigning champions Shamrock Rovers into pole position on goal difference.

Stephen ODonnell 1

St Patrick’s Athletic manager Stephen O’Donnell says his team still have to improve massively

There are encouraging signs thus far in 2021 for the Inchicore club - who finished sixth in last season’s final standings - but O’Donnell has been around the league long enough to know fortunes can change in an instant.

“We have to improve massively still going forward. You’d have to be satisfied with your start, but seven games gone it’s nothing really. I’m sure if you looked at the Premier League table after seven games this season in England, it would be a lot different to what it is now,” O’Donnell acknowledged.

“We’re just trying to get better every week and every week throws up different challenges as we’ve seen with the results in the league. There’s nothing taken for granted in any game. Because on any given day if a team drops below a level, they’ll get turned over and we’re no different.”

While many people are surprised at the position Pat’s find themselves in ahead of Longford Town’s visit to Richmond Park tomorrow evening (kick-off 5.45pm), O’Donnell doesn’t feel this should increase the expectation levels around his squad.

“No one had us considered as anything other than a mid-table team. It’s a bit quick for people to change that opinion after seven games. From our point of view internally, you can’t make sure you play well every week,” O’Donnell said.

“What you can make sure is you’re going to work hard every week and work hard every day in training. That’s all we’re looking to do and wherever that takes us, it takes us.”

In his second season at St Pat’s, Edinburgh native Billy King is beginning to hit top form. A back-to-back Scottish Championship winner with Hearts and Glasgow Rangers in the recent past, King grabbed his second goal of the campaign against Harps in Ballybofey last week.

Given Longford were operating out of the First Division in 2020, King will be facing the Midlanders for the first time. Still, Pat’s have been made to work for their five wins in this year’s top-flight and the 26-year-old winger is anticipating another tough battle tomorrow.

“As we’ve seen so far, every game poses a different challenge. I think the gaffer has changed formation quite a few times to deal with that and to keep the opposition on their toes as well. People might not know what formation we’re going to play. It’s just about preparing and training all week,” King remarked.

“We’ll obviously do video analysis before the game to see what they like to do in their games. We need to be at our best, bring our application into training every day and into games.”

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Prev Champions Rovers will be hoping to keep the ball rolling when they face Finn Harps
Next Squad rotation is key to Pea’s good start

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