A remarkable season for underage football at St Patrick’s Athletic finished last week, as the Under-15s sealed a second league and cup double in as many years with victory over Shamrock Rovers.
The Saints had already wrapped up the league title with victory over Bray last month and doubled up by beating crosstown rivals Shamrock Rovers on penalties at Richmond Park.
An early Rovers strike was swiftly cancelled out by a spectacular individual goal from Jack O’Reilly as he left a trail of defenders in his wake before picking out the corner.
Some well-worked build-up play in midfield put O’Reilly into space on the left but he had plenty of work to do, jinking through a string of challenges before finishing emphatically.
It remained 1-1 through extra time and it went down to penalties and the Saints dispatched all five of theirs, Glory Nzingo hammering home the final spot-kick to clinch a 5-4 win.
It caps off an unprecedented year for the club’s dominant underage sides as the Under-13s also won the league and cup double, while the Under-17s made it a trio of league wins.
The Under-19s had a disappointing campaign by their standards, but rounded off by sealing the Leinster Senior Cup with a 4-0 win over a senior Athlone Town side in Inchicore.
The senior players have now returned to pre-season training under the stewardship of Stephen O’Donnell, who took over from the departed Harry Kenny late last season.
O’Donnell has put his faith in youth with the recruitment of winger Jason McClelland and goalkeeper Conor Kearns from UCD, while defender Rory Feely has returned from Waterford.
Luke McNally has been promoted to the first team following a successful loan spell with Drogheda United and will be joined in defence by captain Ian Bermingham, who signed a new deal this week.
30-year-old Bermingham, who is assistant to Sean O’Connor on the under-15s management team, expressed his excitement at penning a new deal.
“Last year was disappointing for us, and the whole club. We had a great group of lads last year and a lot of quality, but Stephen’s come in and put his own stamp on things,” he said.
“This club needs to be up challenging – I say that all the time. Obviously the last couple of years we’ve gone off the boil a bit and we haven’t gotten close enough to the top two.
“We’ve got to keep aiming for that and I know Stephen is adamant to go and get after them. The standards he’s set since he came in we can go on and get that bit closer.
“I’m not saying we’re going to win the league this year, but I’m firm in the believe we can get close enough and go and have a bash off them.
“He wants a tight-knit, close group. He’s signing young, hungry players, and he wants us to go after teams and play with a high intensity.”