St Patrick’s Athletic manager Liam Buckley takes his side to Latvia next week to begin their Europa League campaign full of confidence with a comprehensive victory under their belts despite resting a number of key players against Longford on Friday night.
Saints bagged the three points in the SSE Airtricity Premier Division with a 3-0 win in Inchicore over the midlanders, despite resting the likes of Christy Fagan, Killian Brennan and Conan Byrne ahead of Thursday’s Europa League first qualifying round first leg clash with Skonto Riga.
Speaking to RTÉ Sport, Buckley said: “Killian Brennan had a slightly bruised foot from a couple of weeks back. Christy Fagan had a bit of a knee issue while Conan’s coming back from a hamstring. He trained all week but we just didn’t want to take a punt on him.”
The trio will all be in contention for a starting place in Riga and Buckley added: “I just didn’t take a chance on them and that’s what the squad is for. We created quite a few chances and I’m delighted to be going into Europe with a victory.”
Chris Forrester broke the deadlock in the 18th minute with an audacious lob and followed up with a second goal from the penalty spot, after a foul on Aaron Greene.
James Chambers added a third in the 49th minute after excellent approach play from Conor McCormack and but for impressive saves by Longford goalkeeper Paul Skinner from Forrester, Sam Verdon and Morgan Langley the victory margin would have been much wider.
St Pat’s went into the two-week mid-season break on the back of three successive wins and there we no signs of disruption to their rhythm by the short hiatus.
“The lads had four days off so it wasn’t a major break. They all look after themselves quite well. But we’ve played well coming up to the break,” said Buckley.
“We’ve picked it up tonight, in patches we were good and in patches we were not so good. But overall we created quite a few chances and probably won comfortably in the end.”
Forrester’s quality strike was topped off with the man of match award and Buckley was full of praise for the talented midfielder, whose brace brought his goal tally up to seven for the 2015 league campaign.
“He’s a fantastic footballer,” said Buckley. “When he plays like he did tonight he’s great to watch.”
A notable face in the crowd at Richmond Park was Damien Duff, who has made no secret of his wish to end his career playing League of Ireland football. Buckley remained tight-lipped on any talk of the former Ireland winger joining the fold at St Pat’s however.
“I’ve no idea about Damien [and his plans] yet. He’s a fantastic footballer and I know he does want to [continue to] play.”
For now though, Buckley’s focus is firmly fixed on getting the right outcome in Riga and teeing up a successful Europa League campaign.