Bohemians full-back Paddy Kirk has targeted a regular place in the first team as they embark upon their first season with European football in eight years.
The Gypsies surprised many by competing at the top end of the table throughout before securing a Europa League spot with a game to spare at the end of last season.
There were scenes of mass jubiliation at the final whistle as Keith Long’s side got the point they needed at Richmond Park to seal a top-four finish.
Watching from the pitch was 21-year-old Kirk who played 90 minutes at left-back as the Phibsboro club held on for a scoreless draw despite losing James Finnerty to a second-half red card.
“It’s exciting times,” Kirk tells Dublin Gazette. “Obviously it’s been a while since [European football] has been here, and you can see how much it meant to the fans.
“Even at the end of the season when we qualified against Pat’s in Inchicore, I hadn’t seen anything like it.
“It’s massive for the club – a lot of fans have stuck by the club when it hasn’t been going well and they deserve it more than anyone.”
Kirk, who made 15 appearances all in all last year, has had to patient with the form of Republic of Ireland Under-21 international Darragh Leahy marking him out as one of the league’s best left-fulls.
Leahy’s two seasons at Dalymount Park earned him a move to league champions Dundalk in the winter and Kirk is intent upon seizing his chance to make the shirt his own.
He took a route unlike many of his peers to the first team as, while the likes of Danny Mandroiu and Leahy starred in the DDSL with St Kevin’s Boys before going to England, he stayed closer to home.
Kirk his local side Raheny United before Bohs’ hook-up with the NDSL saw him earn a spot with the Under-19s at the age of 16.
He recently graduated with a degree in communication. He spoke as part of the club’s scholarship link-up with the National College of Ireland, as he looks to give football his full focus for the year.
“We’ve progressed a lot over the last few years and this year, being in Europe, is the year we should all be looking to push on.
“I think that’s good for the team, it’s healthy, but I’ve been here a few years and it’s time now for me to push on and secure a position.”
That type of graft is something that has defined Long and Trevor Croly’s teams, and the pressure they put on themselves to succeed, he hopes, will bode well for 2020.
“Obviously we put a lot of pressure on ourselves in terms of every week, how we perform and how we train.
“That puts us in a position where we know we’ve done enough as we possibly can.
“That eliminates any pressure we can possibly have, and that’ll be big for us this season.”