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Friday 9 December 2016

Saints can dream of title

New signing Kelly believes Patrick's can be contenders

St Patrick’s Athletic midfielder Graham Kelly is relishing a challenge for the Premier Division title this season Photo: Sportsfile
St Patrick’s Athletic midfielder Graham Kelly is relishing a challenge for the Premier Division title this season Photo: Sportsfile
St Pat’s manager Liam Buckley Photo: Sportsfile

Two heavy defeats from the first three home games of the season is hardly title-winning form.

And while St Patrick's Athletic's players are aware that those losses to Galway United (1-3) and Dundalk (0-4) have put their fans through more pain than they'd expected to endure at this early stage in the season, there is a confidence in the camp at Richmond Park that the Saints can stop sinning and mount a real title challenge this season.

"I won the First Division when I was at Athlone a few years ago but I really want to get a Premier Division medal, and I feel we're more than capable of doing that this season," says Graham Kelly, one of the (many) close season signings for the Saints.

Stride

"With the quality in our side, especially going forward and the goals we have in the team from Christy Fagan, we are a match for anyone. I see no reason why we can't win the league.

"Our starting XI is good enough, with new players at the club we're still getting use to each other and to the club but once we really gel as a team and as a group and hit our stride, I can see us going on a decent run and at least making a challenge."

What's encouraging for Pats, and other title hopefuls, is that the favourites, Dundalk and Cork City, have both dropped points early on, which was not the case this time last season.

"Dundalk have dropped points from two home games already so that's good for the likes of ourselves, we can see that they are not invincible," says Kelly. "The league will be a lot tighter this season, you have a few teams capable of challenging and we are certainly one of those teams.

"Apart from the Galway game I think we have done ok. We actually played well enough in the Dundalk game even though we lost 4-0, it was just one of those games where we gifted them chances and didn't take our own.

"On a personal level I feel I can do a lot better. It was a big confidence boost foe me to get into the team for the first game of the season and stay there.

"I am delighted to be in the team and have kept my place but I know I can improve. We have some new players in the side, I think we are still gelling as a team but once we click, which I see us doing very soon, we will be a lot stronger," added Kelly, hoping to keep up his record as an ever-present in tonight's game at home to a struggling Sligo Rovers side.

Despite his age, Kelly (24) has a vast amount of experience in the league as this is his seventh season of LOI football. An initial loan spell at Bray Wanderers from Derby County (2010) became a longer-term deal and apart from the 2013 season, when he lined out for Salthill Devon and Athlone, he spent his LOI career with Bray, before this move to Richmond Park. "I am at the age now where I want to kick on and do more in my career," he says.

A product of Lourdes Celtic, Kelly's initial aim was to make it as a pro across the water but his time at Derby County didn't work out as planned and Kelly left the midlands club without making an appearance for the side. He does recall the arrival and emergence of another Dubliner and is impressed at how Jeff Hendrick has done. "Jeff and myself were in the same U16 and U18 teams at Derby," says Kelly.

"I was out for seven months with a bad injury and I found it too hard to make up the lost ground but Jeff just progressed so quickly.

"I remember one year he came back for pre-season and you just knew that he was going to go all the way. I'd love to see Jeff go on, get promoted with Derby and go to the Euros with Ireland.

"I don't really think about going back to England, all I want to do this year is do well for Pats and win something here."

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