Club: St Patrick's Athletic
Manager: Liam Buckley
Stadium: Richmond Park
Highest attendance this season: 2,918 vs Shamrock Rovers (4th May)
Highest league goalscorer: Conan Byrne and Jake Keegan (5)
Mid-season position: 6th
How we thought they would do
Pre-season expectations around Richmond Park had to balance a disappointing 2017, where the Saints only survived on the final day, with some excellent recruitment in the off-season. Simon Madden and Kevin Toner headlined a promising-looking batch of new players coming in, giving Pat's the look of a side who could expect to challenge for a top-four finish.
How they really have done
A up-and-down opening to the campaign was turned around after a thumping 5-0 win over Bray Wanderers, and the Inchicore side were firmly fighting for that fourth spot, holding a solid advantage over city rivals Shamrock Rovers and keeping Derry City close after four consecutive wins. But a loss against Stephen Bradley's men set them on a run of five straight losses, where Liam Buckley's small squad was stretched to its limit and beyond. No side were more glad for the mid-season break to arrive.
Moment of the season so far
The capping victory of that four game winning run, Pat's 5-2 win over Derry City in May, was the high-point of the early part of thier season. The first goal, a sweeping team move turned in at the near post by Jake Keegan, was prime 'Bucko-ball,' with the defence and midfield pressing hard to win the ball and moving it along the ground swiftly to create a chance. Darragh Markey's capping goal, robbing Darren Cole on the edge of the Candystripes' box before turning brilliantly and rolling in, was the apex of both his season and the Saints' last peak.
Star Player: Dean Clarke
Clarke arrived from Limerick in the off-season, going the opposite way to Billy Dennehy, with many expecting him to fulfil the same obligations of being the water-carrier of the three-pronged red attack. But the 25-year-old has instead emerged as the star, albeit in the midst of a striking headache and marked loss in form for Conan Byrne. Nonetheless Clarke has become a hard-working hero to the residents of the Camac, using his pace and guile to regularly arrive in the right positions and beat his marker. He combines well with captain Ian Bermingham on the left and has constantly threatened anyone he's been faced with.
Surprise star player: Ryan Brennan
Not intended as a slight on the younger brother of Pats legend Killian, the former Bray Wanderers man has brought balance and craft to the centre of the Richmond field, as well as Pats' most potent option on the end of a cross from open play. The Saints' most consistent midfield performer so far.
Young player: Jamie Lennon
The 20-year-old has owned the holding midfield berth since his promotion to the slot for the Dublin ferby clash away to Bohemians. Lennon is a good tackler, brings great energy, and keeps possession ticking over while occasionally unleashing a fantastic through ball. It's no coincidence that more sides have begun targeting him when on the ball, as his role in Pats early build-up play has become essential. A real star for the future, as Buckley has said on several occasions this season.
Star signing: Dean Clarke
In spite of Toner, Madden, and James Doona stealing the headlines, Clarke has come in and been Pat's best option going forward. Expect a big second-half to the season.
What they need to do in the transfer market
Unearth a striker, plain and simple. Pats' attacking system will naturally lead to gaps developing at the back, but the back five and Lennon had evolved into a solid defensive unit before the schedule, injury, and fatigue began to ravage Buckley's side. But for all the chances they could potentially create, they need a polished finisher with a proper presence in the box. Jake Keegan has only netted five times, Christy Fagan has been disappointing thus far before injury ruled him out for the season, and Thomas Byrne is very much a rough diamond.
Where we see them finishing
The Saints should continue to target that fourth spot and, should they bring in a new frontman and get the back six performing at the level of the four-game winning streak, they should have the ability to push pust Rovers and Derry. Without those, fifth or sixth looks more likely – but it definitely won't be as bad as last season.