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Saturday 16 December 2017

Saints up for fresh battle

St Pat’s midfielder Graham Kelly says he needs to score more goals next season. Pic: Sportsfile
St Pat’s midfielder Graham Kelly says he needs to score more goals next season. Pic: Sportsfile

It's all quiet on the Inchicore front at the moment as St Patrick's Athletic lag behind their city rivals when it comes to transfer dealings.

But Saints midfielder Graham Kelly is confident that the side can sustain a challenge in what is likely to be a very competitive Premier Division next season.

Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers have, between them, already made 15 new signings, not including players promoted from their own youth structures, but Pat's have to date added only two new faces, veterans Gavin Peers and Patrick Cregg.

The re-signing of Christy Fagan on a new two-year deal was a big boost for fans but, with eight departures from the 2016 squad, more signings will be needed.

Pat's have been linked with a move for former Saint Anto Flood, back in Ireland after a two-year stint in Australia, but they need to strengthen in all areas, especially in goal as long-serving keeper Brendan Clarke has gone to newly-promoted Limerick.

Former Bray man Graham Kelly will be on board for 2017 and while he admits it will be a challenge, he says the squad are desperate to improve on a disappointing 2016.

"The league finish wasn't good enough last season but I hope we can grow as a team, get some new faces in and do a lot better next year," says Kelly,

"Top three is what we have to look for as it's a big disappointment to have missed out on Europe. I am optimistic about next season, I think we will do well.

"The signings we have made so far are good ones, Gavin and Patrick will add some experience, we have a lot of good young players and lads like Jamie McGrath will only benefit from playing with people like Gavin Peers.

"Having Christy Fagan back for two more years is huge for us, in my view he's the best striker in the league, with him up front we will definitely score goals.

Conan Byrne was their top scorer last season with 11 league goals but the midfield were very shy in front of goal, as Kelly admits.

"We need more goals from midfield, I only scored two in the league and that's not good enough, I need more next season and so do the other lads as that return of goals is not good enough. But I feel that everyone is hungry to do better."

Pat's finished 32 points behind champions Dundalk in 2016 but pre-season signings by the likes of Cork City, Shamrock Rovers, Bray Wanderers and even Galway United indicate that competition in 2017 will be more intense.

"It's going to be a tough league but I think we can compete, this is what you want, to have good opposition every week," Kelly added.

"Bring on the challenge, that's my view. We know that Rovers are going to be strong, they have made a lot of signings already and could even make more. Cork have added in players and also kept Sean Maguire, Bray have signed a few, so have Galway.

"But I don't have any fears about us. We showed last season, with some great performances against the big teams, that we can compete but we weren't consistent and that really hurt us.

"If we can be consistent from early on, I feel we can do well."

From last season's squad, Saints stalwarts Sean Hoare (to Dundalk), Mark Timlin (Derry), David Cawley (Galway) and Brendan Clarke (Limerick) have left as have fringe players Conor Kane (Drogheda), Dylan McGlade (Longford), Dinny Corcoran and Fuad Sule (Bohs). Billy and Darren Dennehy could also leave.

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