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'Baby and mother are good. It was just a mad 24 hours': From the Rotunda to Tallaght Stadium

Stephen O’Donnell’s wife gave birth to their first child on Friday before he took charge of his first Dublin derby.

St Patrick's Athletic manager Stephen O'Donnell.
St Patrick's Athletic manager Stephen O'Donnell.
Image: Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

STEPHEN O’DONNELL looks a little bit tired standing outside Tallaght Stadium as he stops to talk, but you can forgive the St Pat’s boss given the circumstances. He’s had a long day, to say the least.

A man in demand since taking over at Richmond Park a month ago, his attention is drawn away for a moment as a supporter approaches looking for an autograph from the six-time Premier Division winner.

O’Donnell is more than happy to oblige, scribbling his name on the young fans’ ticket for Friday night’s Dublin derby.

A hard-fought affair which yielded no goals, a 0-0 stalemate seemed a fair result in a game of two halves where his St Pat’s side were aggressive and full of attacking intent, before relying on some superb goalkeeping heroics from Brendan Clarke after the interval.

O’Donnell’s wife gave birth to their first child the morning of the game. A baby daughter, the Galway native’s recollections of his first derby as a manager on the touchline may just be eclipsed by more important memories when he looks back on a crazy 24 hours on the 20 September 2019.

“Our baby was born this morning,” he smiles speaking to The42. “It was a bit of a hectic day and it won’t happen again, but it’s a day you’ll probably look back on in a couple of years and think it was just a mad 24 hours.

mikey-drennan-with-jack-byrne Mikey Drennan with Jack Byrne of Shamrock Rovers. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“I was in the hospital since yesterday morning and basically the whole day and night then too. The baby was born this morning, so I was in the hospital all day and then went straight here to Tallaght for the game.”

The 33-year-old succeeded Harry Kenny as manager last month and has enjoyed a positive start in charge.

After going a goal down in Ballybofey, St Pat’s recovered to beat Finn Harps 2-1 during O’Donnell’s first game in the dugout.

A 0-0 draw at home to UCD a week ago will have been seen as two big points dropped as the club continue their battle for a European finish.

But last night’s draw away to Rovers, who had beaten St Pat’s in all three meetings earlier this season, will be seen as an encouraging result with four games left in the campaign.

ciaran-kelly-reacts-to-an-offside-decision Defender Ciaran Kelly: O'Donnell praised the efforts of his players at the back on Friday night. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“I enjoyed it,” O’Donnell says on his experience of a Dublin derby as a manager, as opposed to a player, where he spent a year with Rovers in 2012.

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“Obviously you’re really focussed on the game and it’s hard to take everything in, but night’s like tonight, that’s why you want to manage big clubs and be involved in big games. I really enjoyed my first derby and hopefully there’s many more to come.

“I thought we were very good, particularly the first half of the first-half. The intensity levels dropped a little bit in the second half. But we defended brilliantly and the players’ application was excellent.

“You’ve got to treat every game on its merits. I suppose with 10 or 15 minutes to go we would have taken a point, the first 10 or 20 minutes in the first half I definitely wouldn’t, because I wanted all three.

“But look, you have to take each game on it’s merits, you can’t be going out there with a set mentality of ‘we’re going to take this from that’ — we’re going out to try and win every game and that’s the way we’re going to approach it.”

stephen-odonnell-with-stephen-bradley-before-the-game Managers Stephen O'Donnell and Stephen Bradley speak before last night's Dublin derby. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

St Pat’s impressed during the opening 45 minutes, with chances for Mikey Drennan, Cian Coleman, Lee Desmond and Kevin Toner nearly breaking the deadlock.

Stephen Bradley’s Rovers side upped the ante after the interval and on his 200th appearance for the club, goalkeeper Clarke was forced into a number of top saves to keep the side’s level.

“We got a little bit tired as the second half wore on,” O’Donnell says. “The intensity levels dropped a bit and with that then our quality in possession dropped too. But the first half we did well, we looked sharp, we looked dangerous and played really well.”

A unique experience on the touchline — as opposed to on the pitch — for O’Donnell amid a hectic 24 hours where he became a father for the first time. 20 September 2019 will not be soon forgotten.

“I’m going straight back to the hospital now,” he says. “[My wife's] very good, obviously very tired now. But baby and mother are good. I’m looking forward to getting back over now to see them both.”

“A little girl,” he smiles to himself, turning towards the carpark.

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About the author:

Aaron Gallagher

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