St Pat’s targeting title challenge as they welcome visit of Bohemians

Defender Conor Keeley thinks club have the quality to take on Shamrock Rovers over a season

At 26, Conor Keeley may be a late arrival to full-time professional football, but the towering central defender knows where he wants to go with St Patrick’s Athletic this season.

Having adapted well to the particularly heavy pitch conditions, Jon Daly’s side ground out a 1-0 win at newly promoted Galway United last week.

On Friday night at Richmond Park, it’s cross Liffey rivals Bohemians, whom they beat in last November’s FAI Cup final, who are the visitors for a 5,000-sellout first home game of the campaign.

“That’s the aim,” said Keeley, on the quiet confidence around Inchicore that St Patrick’s can challenge strongly for the league title this year following last season’s third-place finish and cup success.


“You have the cups and we’re not even going to talk about Europe yet, but the league is your bread and butter.

“We have the quality there, the facilities and the coaching staff. We have everything there for us. But as players it’s up to us,” added the Dunboyne native whose commanding performances at Drogheda United last year got him a move to Dublin 8.

“We know what the expectations are and we have to live up to them. We won’t get too carried away, but it’s obviously an aim for us. As players we’d love to go all the way. But it’s not going to be easy at all.”

In Tom Grivosti’s continued absence following knee surgery and with Ryan McLaughlin and Axel Sjoberg also injured, Daly has completed the signing of Scottish right-back Kieran Freeman who may come straight into tonight’s squad pending international clearance.

Bohemians, who needed a 94th minute equaliser from James Clarke to scrape a 2-2 draw at home to Sligo Rovers last week, confirmed during the week that their central defender Rob Cornwall, who returned to the club in the close season, is out for the year having suffered an ACL tear.

“Rob is an extremely talented player, a leader within the group, and someone I tried to bring back to the club before the start of last season, so to finally get him in and to lose him after just 30 minutes is clearly a massive blow for us,” said manager Declan Devine who yesterday signed 20-year-old central defender Jevon Mills on loan from Hull City until the end of June.

Another full house is expected across the city at Tolka Park when Damien Duff’s Shelbourne host champions Shamrock Rovers, both having recorded 1-1 draws on opening night.

“Shelbourne are always really well set up, really well organised,” said Rovers’ head coach Stephen Bradley who is without Roberto Lopes, who rests up following his AFCON exploits with Cape Verde, the injured Neil Farrugia and Trevor Clarke while Jack Byrne is not expected back until next week.

Striker Sean Boyd, sent off having come on and scored their equaliser at Waterford last week, is suspended for Shelbourne who are also without Shane Griffin and Liam Burt, the latter on loan from Rovers.

“It’s a Dublin Derby, Tolka is packed to the rafters,” said Duff.

“The final message to the players, go and deliver.”

Friday night’s fixtures (7.45)

Premier Division

Drogheda United v Waterford

Dundalk v Galway United

St Patrick’s Athletic v Bohemians

Shelbourne v Shamrock Rovers

First Division

Cobh Ramblers v Athlone Town

Finn Harps v Cork City

Kerry FC v Bray Wanderers

UCD v Treaty United

Wexford v Longford Town

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