Team: St Patrick’s Athletic
Manager: Liam Buckley/Ger O'Brien (caretaker manager), Harry Kenny (incoming)
Liam Buckley left his position as head coach at the end of September with four league games and the Leinster Senior Cup final to play, ending a near seven-year association with the club.
Buckley’s assistant, Ger O'Brien, took charge of those last five games before Harry Kenny was announced as manager for 2019.
Top Scorer: Jake Keegan (nine goals from 32 appearances)
The American netted the most goals of everyone from the Saints' squad in 2018, with nine to his name. Christy Fagan's knee injury early in the season paved the way for the ex-Galway United man to lead the line for the Inchicore club. He scored against some important goals against Bohemians, Derry City and Sligo Rovers, amongst others, and also deputised on the left wing when required.
Stadium: Richmond Park (Attendance: 5,340)
Highest Attendance: 2,918 (vs Shamrock Rovers, 4th May)
Nearly 3,000 fans packed into Richmond Park to see Ian Bermingham and Killian Brennan net for the Saints in each half, which was the first of a four-game winning run in May.
Lowest Attendance: 1,003 (vs Sligo Rovers, 15th June)
Just over a thousand people saw Sligo Rovers leave Inchicore with a 3-0 win. A combination of Pat’s wretched form and the game happening in the midst of summer were no doubt factors for the game being poorly attended.
Star Player: Lee Desmond
The 23-year-old Donaghmeade man, along with teammate Simon Madden, played every single minute of league action in 2018, highlighting how indispensible he is at the heart of the Saints’ defence.
Being the first name on the team sheet for both Buckley and O’Brien in 2018, the versatile centre-half really excelled and showed tremendous leadership qualities alongside Kevin Toner and/or Mick Leahy.
The ex-Newcastle youth and Shelbourne man is also comfortable at left-back, either side in centre-back pairing, and as a holding midfielder.
He starred in a holding midfield role away at Dundalk in a televised game, where he was able to showcase his slick passing, his calmness in possession, and his technical prowess.
Desmond did not manage to find the net last season (He’s yet to score in 106 appearances for the Saints), but Pats goals often came from his build up play from the back.
Harry Kenny will have the opportunity to work with the youngster, as he signed a new two-year deal last month, which would take his time at the club to five years.
With the recent signings of centre-halves Ciaran Kelly and David Webster, it will be interesting to see if he is deployed in midfield in 2019.
Best Young Player: Jamie Lennon
20-year-old academy product burst on to the scene when Liam Buckley started him against Bohemians in Dalymount Park in March, and since then, he's played nearly every game since.
He's a terrific tackler, he's brilliant at breaking up play and always looks to pass forward.
He has a great future in the game if he keeps his form up next season in Inchicore, where he will be playing in 2019.
One would imagine that he will be playing at a higher level if his undoubted potential is unlocked.
Best New Signing: Kevin Toner
It was a great debut season for the Dubliner, who slotted into the team seamlessly. The 22-year-old scored five goals over the season from centre-back, and is a good passer of the ball, an efficient tackler and also slotted in at left-back on occasions.
One aspect of the game the former Aston Villa player is excellent at is his reading of the game and his aerial presence.
He had a few dodgy games (Shamrock Rovers away where he scored an own goal) and has been sent off once, but good games from him definitely far outweighed the bad ones, where he featured 27 times in the league.
The Ashbourne native will be back in Richmond for the 2019 season.
What we expected they would do:
The extratime.ie team predicted that St Pat’s would finish in fifth place at the start of the season, and that’s exactly where the 2013 league winners finished up.
What they actually did:
SSE Airtricity League:
The first series of games in the league were not too bad, and saw the Saints finish in the same place where they finished up in October: fifth.
Notable results in the first series included a 1-0 away win at Bohemians, a 0-0 draw at home to Dundalk, as well as a 5-0 home win against Bray Wanderers.
The second series of games is when the Inchicore club really blossomed. They accumulated 17 points from a possible 27, the third highest in the league.
Buckley oversaw his side win four league games in a row between May 4th and May 18th, including home wins against Shamrock Rovers, Sligo Rovers and Derry City.
The third series of games was a total disaster for everyone associated with the club. They won just once in their nine games- managing to lose seven league games in-a-row between May 22nd andJuly 20th.
They managed to beat Limerick 2-1 at Richmond to stop the rot, where losses at Bray, Bohemians and Derry were disappointing and hard to take.
The fourth series of games were a lot better. They started off with three wins and drew at Cork from their first four games. On September 22nd, Liam Buckley shocked the club and the league itself, as he resigned as head coach after seven years after a 3-1 home loss to a youthful Bohemians' side.
The club clocked up a record of 15 wins, 5 draws and 16 defeats from their 36 games, and scored 51 goals and conceded 47. The Saints accumulated 50 points in the 2018 league season.
Their FAI Cup journey for 2018 ended at the second round. They dispatched non-league Inchicore Athletic in the 5-0 in the first round, in what was a historic tie at Richmond. In the following round, they succumbed to a tight 1-0 defeat away to Derry City. Ian Turner missed a penalty in the dying embers of the game, which would have forced a replay.
EA Sports Cup:
The 2015 and 2016 winners received a bye in the second round, where they faced holders Dundalk at Richmond. The game itself was helter-skelter and finished 4-4 aet. The Lilywhites prevailed on spot-kicks in the end.
Leinster Senior Cup:
Their Leinster Senior Cup journey for 2018 went all the way to the final. They played Shelbourne at Tolka Park in late September and lost on penalties after drawing 1-1 aet.
They beat Bray Wanderers 3-1 at the Carlisle Grounds in February, and beat Wexford and Dundalk in Inchicore in the preceding rounds, 5-0 and 1-0 respectively, to reach the final.
What they need to improve on for next year:
Defence: As much as Liam Buckley was a great attack-minded coach, he did not really seem to put too much emphasis on defending. When Buckley resigned, O’Brien only conceded three goals from his five games, including two clean sheets in his last two games.
In contrast, new manager Harry Kenny places greater emphasis on his defence and, with the recent acquisition of David Webster and Ciaran Kelly at the back too, will feel he has the players at his disposal for his side to be much more solid at the back.
That was a big theme last year. Although their goal against record wasn’t the worst; the Saints would concede very soft, preventable goals at times throughout the season, which would cost them points.
Attack: St Pat’s have struggled to find a prolific centre-forward for some time now. Christy Fagan was their last, but he has endured a lot of injuries and loss of form over the years.
Kenny has signed ex-Shamrock Rovers man Gary Shaw for the 2019 season. He wasn’t too hot at the Hoops, but Shaw and Kenny feel that that the style of play at Inchicore can really suit him. If it does, Shaw and his club could push up towards a European position.
Having a goal-scoring number nine should be of huge importance for the club if they want to be back challenging for honours. A look at the last couple of league winners shows the importance of having one.