By Dave Donnelly
ST PATRICK’S Athletic boss Stephen O’Donnell believes his Premier League loan signings will add a fresh and welcome dimension to the same-old, same-old League of Ireland merry-go-around.
The Saints boss has signed highly-rated goalkeeper Vitezslav Jaros from Liverpool and midfielder Alfie Lewis from West Ham, while Nahum Melvin Lambert is on loan from Championship Reading.
Czech stopper Jaros is highly-rated at Melwood and, as understudy to Ireland’s Caoimhin Kelleher, has been on the bench three times in the Champions League.
Combative midfielder Lewis has been an unused sub in the Premier League for the Hammers, while striker Melvin-Lambert is a little bit greener at just 18 years old.
All three will hope to follow in the footsteps of Ollie Younger, who made his senior debut with the Athletic while on loan from Burnley and has since broken into the Sunderland side.
All three have impressed with their attitude since arriving in Inchicore, and O’Donnell feels it will offer his side a little dash of the unknown as they look to improve on last year’s sixth-place finish.
“It’s a small network, the League of Ireland. A lot of teams are going to be after the good players, the same players. So you have to look outside,” the Galwayman says.
“They’re more of a gamble but it’s an avenue I like going down. There’s an opportunity to get good players and I’m excited by the ones we’ve brought in. There’s a little bit of freshness and newness to the league.”
“Originally, when you declare your interest, the parent club have to have an interest going the other way and see it as a good developmental move for someone like Viteslav.
“You tell them the truth and tell them they’re going to get the same training, same coaching and same schedule as over at Liverpool.
“[Add] the cherry on top that they’re going to get men’s football, first team games, and you’re going to see them in that arena, the parent club. And then you take it from there.
“It can be a start of something and the League of Ireland can be seen as a good breeding ground for these hot prospects from Under-23 teams and Premier League teams to go and play first team football.”
Midfielder Jamie Lennon has likewise been impressed by the new additions, as well as the likes of Ronan Coughlan, Matty Smith and league-winners John Mountney and Paddy Barrett.
Successive fifth and sixth-place finishes have left the Athletic outside the European reckoning and the Santry native has been around the club long enough to know the fans expect more.
“We definitely under-achieved and we were never going to be happy in fifth or sixth place. We want to better our position,” the Ireland under-21 cap says.
“Pats isn’t a mid-table club, I think everyone knows that from the amount of trophies they have won. We are not happy with where we have been.
“We want to contest with other people and challenge ourselves. I think it just comes down to consistency: one week performance levels are high, we get a win, the next we get turned over.
“We can’t keep having these rollercoaster performances. That’s what it’s going to come down to — the main thing this year is to get consistency.”
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