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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 19 November, 2019
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'The biggest crowd in years' - Pats' rousing win over Cork stirs enthusiasm

Three-and-a-half thousand people packed into Richmond Park for the opening night of the new season.

Pat's fans celebrate Mikey Drennan's winning goal.
Pat's fans celebrate Mikey Drennan's winning goal.
Image: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

“THE BIGGEST CROWD in years” grinned Harry Kenny after St Pat’s kick-started his reign with a rousing 1-0 win at home to Cork City on the opening night of the new SSE Airtricity League season.

The only goal of the game came just prior to the half-hour mark, with Mikey Drennan sending Mark McNulty flailing in the wrong direction from a spot-kick. 

The official attendance clicked to an impressive total of 3,478 people and one senior Irish international manager, with Mick McCarty taking in the game alongside FAI Competitions Director Fran Gavin. 

New signing Rhys McCabe was impressive in midfield for Pat’s, and he too was struck by the noise bouncing around Richmond Park. 

“We have said that since the start of the season, we need that 12th man”, McCabe told the42 post-game.

“It drives you on when your backs are up against the wall, and sometimes it will take a tackle or a header just to gee the crowd up.

“They were excellent tonight, they came out in their numbers and it gives you that extra five or 10 percent when you are tired and your legs are hurting.”

The game was frantic and frenetic, although was light on technical quality. “There wasn’t a whole pile of football played”, says Kenny, “so it was a typical opening match.” 

McCabe agrees with his manager on this count, too. 

“It wasn’t the most entertaining game. But the lads showed the intensity levels from pre-season, defended really well, were organised and deserved to win.

“The style of football Harry and the staff want to play is obviously attractive, but tonight was different; it was about rolling up your sleeves and doing the ugly side of football.

“I thought we did that really well.” 

What little football was played largely by Pat’s after a wild opening quarter, with McCabe impressing as a calming influence as one of the more advance of the central trio in Harry Kenny’s 3-5-2 formation. 

Harry Kenny St Pat's manager Harry Kenny. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

“That is just a bit of experience”, says McCabe of knowing when to play keep-ball.

“We know what Cork are like: they are good at what they do. They are relentless for 90 minutes, and sometimes it will take throwing in a couple of extra passes to take the sting out of things for a minute, especially when you are under pressure for large periods of the game.

“So taking an extra touch and calming things down is probably what we needed.

“But each to a man tonight, we were superb; there wasn’t a bad performance out there.”

Injuries to a couple of wide players forced Kenny to rejig his plans in the lead-up to last night’s opening game, and he settled on a system in which all three centre-backs - Kevin Toner, Lee Desmond, and David Webster – excelled in the final stages as they withstood Cork’s aerial bombardment. 

Ahead of them, midfielders Conor Clifford – voted man of the match – and Jamie Lennon- who impressed for Stephen Kenny’s home-based U21 squad last week – dutifully broke up Cork attacks and largely snuffed out the challenge of Cork danger man Daire O’Connor when the dashing winger was moved to a more central position. 

“[Jamie] is going well”, says Kenny. “He had a good season last season, and I’ve spoken to him about kicking on so I’m expecting a big season from him.

“Conor just needed to get a bit of fitness in him; he didn’t get himself fit last season.

“He was only getting fit when the league was ending. So he has applied himself fantastically well over pre-season, and he had a good game tonight”. 

It may be premature to configure Pat’s as title challengers, but Kenny is targeting European football. 

“Look it is only three points. I want to finish ahead of where we finished last season. We finished fifth so if we go one better than that we will have a good chance of getting into Europe.” 

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Gavin Cooney

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