FAI Cup dream won't distract Saints
Ian wants strong finish in the league
EVEN though they have admitted defeat in their bid to retain the league title, Ian Bermingham promises that St Patrick's Athletic will not give up on the league campaign so they can focus on their FAI Cup dream.
Saints fans have two home games to look forward to this week but most of the Inchicore faithful feel that Sunday's match, the FAI Cup semi-final meeting with Finn Harps, has more importance than tonight's league clash with Bohemians.
Ending that long wait for FAI Cup success is the key goal at the club but for Bermingham, European qualification is a must and he wants that secured via their league position before the FAI Cup final comes around in November.
"If we can win the FAI Cup and get into Europe that way we will have something to show for the year and it will have been a decent season for us," says Bermingham.
"But even if we do get to the Cup final I don't want that European spot to be still in the balance on the day of the final, so we have to make sure we get into the Europa League via the league, and a win tonight against Bohs would give us a great chance of doing that.
"If we don't get into Europe at the very least then it will feel like the whole season has been for nothing. So I don't see us taking it easy in the league so we can concentrate on the FAI Cup, we want to finish as high as we can in the league and have European football boxed off."
A win at home to Bohs tonight would put the Saints just four points behind second-placed Cork City, though Cork would then have a game in hand, but for former U21 cap Bermingham, a possible runner-up spot is not their driving force.
"At the start of the season the aim here was to win the league again and we haven't done that so there's not a huge difference between finishing second and third," says the defender, who is out of contract at the end of this season.
"It would be nice to think that we were still in with a shout in the title race but the two two of Dundalk and Cork have been so strong, it's hard to see them slipping up in the last few weeks so it looks like they will just battle it out for the top two.
"That's not to say that we have given up, we will try to finish as high up the league as we can."
Pats took a major step towards securing a top-three finish last weekend as they came from behind to draw 1-1 at home to Shamrock Rovers, seeing as the Hoops as their only challengers for that third place.
And they may have to work hard against one of their Dublin rivals again tonight as Bohs have done well against the Saints this season, Bohs knocking Pats out of the EA Sports Cup and also taking league points away from Richmond Park, though Pats had the upper hand in their last clash, that thrilling FAI Cup quarter-final tie.
"Bohs have a good side and they have put it up to us in all of the games we've had this season," says Bermingham, who has noted the new-found goalscoring form of his former team-mate Derek Pender in the Bohs side.
The Gypsies' recent form, including that display against Pats in the FAI Cup, has boosted morale at Dalymount Park as they cross the Liffey tonight.
"Bar the first league game at Richmond in April, we've always given them a game. We threw everything at them in the Cup game. We were very disappointed to come out with nothing having been in touching distance of bringing them to a replay," says Bohs boss Owen Heary.
The senior players in his squad played their part last weekend as Jason Byrne and Dave Mulcahy, with a combined age of 72, scored the goals in a 2-0 win over Limerick and a top-six finish could be on the cards.
"One of the best things about us at the moment is that we have no fear," Heary said. "We're not in any danger of relegation, so the lads are able to get to grips with games.
"It's all to play for. We've four games left against four teams ahead of us. None of them are going to be easy but we want to prove ourselves against those sides and get as high a position as we can."