Pats vow to buck' trend
FOR almost a decade now, they have been the nearly men of Irish football.
And in 2013, it's the job of St Patrick's Athletic manager Liam Buckley to change that and turn the club into a title-winning outfit, something that could become a lot closer over the next few days should St Pat's win their home games against Derry City (tonight) and Bohemians (Monday).
Pat's have been, to use that phrase, there or thereabouts for a few seasons too many: four top-four finishes in the past six years, runners-up twice in the league and once in the Setanta Cup, and in the past three seasons they've made it to the last four of the FAI Cup without ever winning it.
"We want to give it a right belt. I am loath to say here and now that we will win the league, but if we stay competitive we will be up there at the end of the season. I think it's going to be very tight this season, somebody will probably win the league by a point," Buckley told the Herald ahead of tonight's massive game against second-placed Derry City.
"We have Derry, Bohs and Cork in the next two weeks. If we win those three then we'd be in a great position, but I also know we could lose three so we're trying to keep our feet on the ground.
"I have been a runner-up before plenty of times. I've finished second and third and lost Cup finals. But I have won things as well, and all you can do is keep yourself in the mix."
St Pat's received a financial shot in the arm this week as US-based firm Clune Construction came on board as their new shirt sponsors. Owned by Irishman Mike Clune, the firm have their fingers in a few sporting pies, including a link with Pádraig Harrington, and that's a factor for Buckley as he tries to end the trophy famine at Richmond Park.
"Pádraig has had plenty of disappointments and second-placed finishes in his career. But he's had plenty of wins as well. He's a wonderful competitor, no matter what happens he will always compete and I want Pat's to be something like that," he said.
"You can't win every trophy every year but you can challenge, and I want us to challenge. We have no divine right to win anything and Shamrock Rovers have a budget that's twice the size of ours. Sligo's budget is bigger than ours. But I think that with the squad we have we can settle down and give ourselves a chance," added the Saints boss.
"I think you have four or five teams who feel they can do something this season. Sligo, Derry and Shamrock Rovers will all harbour ambitions of winning it, and we're the same.
"We lost a few of our players to Rovers at the end of last season but we've added some good players as well, and we're going along nicely."
Pat's and Derry approach tonight's game on the back of some stunning form, Pat's with four straight wins and Derry with six wins on the bounce.
It should make for a decent game, if the pitch at Richmond Park can deal with what will be the third home game in 11 days.
"Derry have a really good squad, with some great footballers in there like Barry McNamee," says Buckley.
"Ruaidhri Higgins is one of the best passers of the ball in the league, Simon Madden's a talented full-back, Patterson up front is a threat. I think tonight you'll see two teams trying to win the game in the right way."