The arrival of some new faces, and the return of an old hero, have given long-suffering fans of Saint Patrick's Athletic FC something to smile about.
Since St Patrick's won their last league title in 1999 there has been more hardship than happiness, but the Super Saints are now buzzing on and off the field. They have been taken over by property expert Garrett Kelleher, who plans to transform the club's Richmond Park home into a 12,000 all-seater stadium to meet UEFA standards. Long term, Kelleher's plan is to make St Patrick’s the first Irish club capable of reaching the UEFA Champions League group stage.
Kelleher is a newcomer to Irish soccer but his arrival at St Patrick’s coincided with the return of a club legend as former Republic of Ireland boss Brian Kerr has been appointed as director of football. The club have always been close to Kerr's heart as he won two Premier Division titles as manager (1990 and 1996) before taking up a job with the Football Association of Ireland, first as youth team manager (1997-2003) and then senior team coach (2003-05).
"Since leaving the national team job I have had a small number of opportunities to work abroad and in Ireland," said Kerr. "I was never really attracted to the English game or living in England and so when Garrett Kelleher approached me I reviewed my position. Now my energies will be concentrated on establishing the Super Saints as one of the leading clubs in Ireland."
On the field, manager John McDonnell - who played under Kerr in the title-winning sides of the 1990s - is doing little wrong. Close-season signings like Shelbourne FC duo Gary O'Neill and Joseph Ndo, as well as Longford Town FC pair Alan Kirby and Stephen Paisley, already look like good deals with St Patrick's beginning the 2007 season with four wins and a draw.
Kerr insists that his arrival poses no threat to McDonnell's position as manager and he instead wants to work on other projects. "There is a whole new community living in the area and I want to give them the opportunity to come and support St Pat's," said Kerr. "The club already has direct link with the Polish community, we also have strong links with clubs from Africa and we intend to expand those links in the future. There's the underage set-up, I'd like to offer an alternative to young Irish players going away to England."
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