Duff: “We could feel the enthusiasm and excitement around the place”

St Patrick’s Athletic and Shels go head to head on Friday as the League of Ireland returns following the summer break.

The Reds are looking to build on a solid first half of the season which saw them enter the break in sixth place in the League of Ireland table, just 4 points off the top four.

Damien Duff delivered a squad update after training in the AUL on Thursday. He told ShelbourneFC.ie: “Matty Smith is the only doubt, as he’s struggling with an ankle injury. Apart from that, everybody is fit bar the long term injured players Brian McManus and Kian Leavy.

“Paddy Barrett is back in contention, which is a brilliant boost for us. He’s been a great signing. The most important thing now is to keep him fit, as we can’t afford to miss him for multiple games. It has been quite frustrating in that sense. Having him available is fantastic for the team, the squad, and the overall energy around the place.

“Coming in after the break, we could feel the enthusiasm and excitement around the place, although there were still some cobwebs after the 6 or 7 days off. 

“We decided to come in a day early to get back into the swing of things. We are raring to go and eager to get back on the pitch, and I expect the lads to show that tomorrow.”

The Reds went into the break with a draw at home to Sligo Rovers. Reflecting overall on their season Duff feels they’ve made positive strides so far:

“We’re currently on a nice run, having lost just one game in the last 13 matches, in terms of the League of Ireland, with teams turning each other over every week, that’s considered good form. 

“We’ll be honest, we were really disappointed not to beat Sligo in our last game. It felt like two points dropped definitely for me, and we know we could have done better. Now, our focus is on getting back to winning ways and ensuring we’re more clinical with those chances, turning draws into wins is going to be important as the season goes on.”

The Saints and Shels have plenty of history and the duels of the 2000s was the big story in Irish football at the time. Despite efforts to dampen the rivalry by some, Duff feels it’s alive and well:

“Contrary to what some people say, there is indeed a rivalry between Shels and Pats and that has brought some intense games, they’ve been tight matches, hard fought.

“The recent game at Tolka was a real disappointment for us. The games this season, both decided by two set pieces that we were not good enough on. In Tolka, we didn’t offer much, particularly in the second half. Richmond Park has always been a difficult place for visiting teams to go, we know how hard it’ll be to get the win, but that’s our aim, we know what we need to bring and the players are embracing that.”

With the transfer window opening shortly, Duff spoke about his plans to bring in reinforcements, and hoped they would mirror the impact of Matty Smith upon his arrival to Tolka at the same time last season:

“It is very important for us to strengthen, that’s the aim. We see the impact that Matty had last year, and that’s exactly what I’m hoping for this year as well. It’s not just about getting one player like Matty, but if we can secure two, that’s great even better, we’re looking for three, that would be amazing for us. With new owners and the board, they are aware of my views. They know where we want to get to together, we are currently in a good position, but we want to provide the whole squad with a boost for the second half of the season, we need to strengthen our team to give us that impetus”.

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