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Dublin: 7 °C Thursday 23 January, 2020

'We can take pride in keeping three clean sheets, but tonight it's definitely two points dropped'

Lee Desmond captained St Patrick’s Athletic as the Saints were held to a draw by Finn Harps on Monday.

Desmond has taken on a more pronounced leadership role over the last two seasons.
Desmond has taken on a more pronounced leadership role over the last two seasons.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

‘THREE’ WAS THE magic number for St Patrick’s Athletic’s defence on Monday night. The Saints kept their third clean sheet in three games so far this season in the Premier Division, all while employing a new 3-5-2 system at home to Finn Harps.

It was a point well-earned, but skipper on the night Lee Desmond believes it was two points dropped during a frustrating game at Inchicore where Harry Kenny’s men failed to maintain the forward momentum of back-to-back wins against Cork City and Sligo Rovers.

Ollie Horgan’s newly-promoted Harps side were full value for the 0-0 draw at Richmond Park, sometimes threatening to snatch all three points with Sean Boyd and Nathan Boyle dangerous up front in the second half.

“I just felt that we were all a bit sloppy from the word go, to be honest,” Desmond said speaking after full-time on Monday.

“If one team was to win it I think it was definitely us. But the final ball let us down a bit and just in general play I thought lots of us could say to ourselves that we could have been better.

Lee Desmond and Nathan Boyle The St Pat's defender tackles Finn Harps' Mark Coyle. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“I don’t think the match on Friday (a 1-0 win against Sligo Rovers) had any impact on tonight’s match. I think we’re fit enough that we can handle two matches in four days. But it’s just one of those matches where we couldn’t really get into our rhythm from the start until the end.”

The 24-year-old Dubliner is enjoying his fifth season at St Pat’s and captained the side in the absence of Ian Bermingham, a duty which Desmond performed a handful of times last season.

I captained us two or three times last year when Bermo was injured, so I’m just keeping it warm for him,” he smiles.

“I don’t mind it, it’s just an armband for me. There’s plenty of leaders out on that pitch. Dave Webster, Kevin Toner, Brendan Clarke in goal, Rhys McCabe in the middle — there’s plenty of leaders on that pitch. It’s just an armband and I’m happy to do it.”

Desmond focussed on the better aspects of the 0-0 draw against Harps, though accepting it was a tricky night where his team failed to find that something extra to break the deadlock.

“It’s definitely two points dropped, but there are definitely positives. We’ve kept three clean sheets, that has to keep going, but we need to create a bit more. We have to make sure our end product is right and be ruthless in front of goal.

Harry Kenny Harry Kenny's side had to settle for a point at home to Finn Harps on Monday, but are unbeaten after three games. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“We watched the video of Finn Harps against Dundalk and they do make the game tough for you. We can be better. They’ll pick up points like that against everyone all season, but tonight we have to look at ourselves and say ‘yeah, we could have been a bit better’.

“All that said, there are positives to take. The clean sheets and the fact that we are unbeaten so far. Maybe at the end of the season we’ll look at it as two points dropped, rather than a point gained. We’ll just move onto Friday against UCD and make sure it’s better.”

As for the new season so far, the centre back says as much of a cliché as is sounds, everyone in Inchicore is just taking each game as it comes. Expectations placed on St Pat’s this year are high given the extent of investment into Harry Kenny’s squad, with a European finish likely a minimum target.

It’s the same old story,” says Desmond. “We’re just taking it every game at a time and not getting too far ahead of ourselves. It really is a great group of lads and everyone is just keeping their heads on and taking it one game at a time.”

One thing that has caught the eye of supporters at Richmond Park has been the new 3-5-2 system which has seen Desmond, Kevin Toner and David Webster form a bank of three at the back with Simon Madden and Ian Bermingham deployed as wing-backs.

Desmond says that the new formation has been a relatively new tactic for the side, but maintains that formations in isolation mean nothing. It’s about the personnel within the system, he says, and how they perform on a given night.

Lee Desmond celebrates after the game The Dubliner is enjoying his fifth season at Richmond Park in 2019. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“It’s something that we only worked on the week of the Cork match,” he explains referring to St Pat’s 1-0 defeat of John Caulfield’s men on the opening night of the season.

“We didn’t work on it at all really in pre-season until a few days before Cork. It doesn’t really matter what formation you play, there’s a couple of things that you have to be aware of when people are in slightly different positions, but the same things apply.

You have to work hard and you have to keep the ball. You have to look after your touch and your passing and then you take it from there, like everything else.”

All in all with three games down, Desmond concludes he is content with not conceding a goal in the Premier Division ahead of Friday’s visit to Belfield to take on UCD. In fact, given their back-to-back clean sheets at the end of last season, the Dubliners have not conceded a league goal in almost 500 minutes of play.

“As a defender you’re definitely happy with three clean sheets in a row. We go out there and we say to each other ‘keep a clean sheet’. That’s our main job done I suppose, so we definitely have pride in that and it has to be the basis for the season going forward.”

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Aaron Gallagher

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