Pat’s survive drop threat

by Dave Donnelly

ST PATRICK’S Athletic secured their Premier Division status after getting the point they needed away to Derry City at Maginn Park on the final day of the season.
Liam Buckley’s side took a big step towards preserving their place in the top flight with a dramatic 4-2 comeback win over Cork City at Richmond Park the previous week.
And they got the job done in Buncrana thanks to Killian Brennan’s goal midway through the first half – though they endured a nervy finish thanks to Rory Patterson’s equaliser after the break.
It was more relief than jubilation that prompted a pitch invasion at the final whistle- the season has been an unmitigated disaster for the Saints.
The Inchicore club went into the season with high hopes of returning to Europe and doing well in the cups, neither of which materialised as his young side found themselves in the doldrums from the off.
The Saints are one of only two clubs never to have been relegated from the top flight – Bohemians are the other – and wear their ever-present status proudly.
With three sides facing the drop as the Premier Division once more contracts to ten teams, it was only a late-season surge in form that saved Pats from dropping to the First Division for the first time.
Their record of 19 points from the final round of fixtures was second only to Dundalk and was inspired to a large degree by Buckley’s clever dealing in the transfer market.
He replaced his entire midfield during the July window, bringing in the experienced Killian Brennan, Paul O’Conor and ex-international squad member Owen Garvan in place of youth.
Equally as important has been Dutch defender Jordi Balk, an ever-present since signing in the summer – it was his goal that kick-started the revival against the champions Cork.
The team was marshalled by left-back Ian Bermingham, who played a captain’s role with lead goals against Shamrock Rovers and Cork in the closing weeks, points that helped Pats over the line.
“You look at all the teams in the league and there was always going to be one or two big teams going down,” said Bermingham.
“We just weren’t good enough at the start of the season. Obviously Liam has brought in a lot of players, a lot of quality players, a lot of experienced players, and they’ve really added to us.
“I think there are four or five of them that are starting now, so that’s nearly half the team that’s changed from earlier on in the season.
“And since they’ve come in, we’ve won a lot of games and we haven’t lost that many. They steadied the ship for us and we have kicked on a little bit.”

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