Stephen O’Donnell is hopeful of tingeing the title party he helped prepare when bringing his St. Patrick’s Athletic side to Oriel Park on Friday night. (Pic: Sportsfile)
Stephen O’Donnell is hopeful of tingeing the title party he helped prepare when bringing his St. Patrick’s Athletic side to Oriel Park on Friday night.
The Dundalk FC legend left his role as the club’s opposition analyst in September to take over in Inchicore and ahead of tonight’s game, Pat’s are travelling down the M1 with a European place within sight.
Yet O’Donnell insists his brief when assuming the Richmond Park mantle wasn’t about securing a top-four place, and Europa League qualification. For him, it was about assessing the playing staff and learning about the club ahead of his first full term at the helm.
Of course, O’Donnell captained Dundalk over Stephen Kenny’s trophy-laden six years in charge, winning four SSE Airtricity League Premier Division crowns along with a pair of FAI and EA SPORTS Cups, which leaves him as The Lilywhites’ most successful skipper.
On his Oriel return, the Galwegian told The Democrat: “My main focus will be on trying to get St. Pat’s as prepared as possible to play Dundalk. I wouldn’t be big into everything that’s going on around.
“Obviously it’d be nice to get a nice reception, you’d rather that than to get booed, but I’ll leave that to other people to sort of lap up adulation. I’ll be there trying to do a job.
“But, look, me and the Dundalk fans or anyone around the club, the relationship we had, it was a brilliant one and that’s the way it’ll always be remembered in my view.
“I’ve had numerous of those trophy presentations and they are great nights and nights you will remember. But that’s for the Dundalk players and staff, people I know well, to enjoy and they deserve to.”
The decision to take his leave of the Carrick Road was difficult, the former midfielder concedes, but the prestige of overseeing one of the country’s grandest sides was too much of an incentive for O’Donnell to refuse.
“It was a risk for St. Pat’s and I put myself out on the frontline,” he says.
“I could have stayed at Dundalk and a little bit in the background.
“But I feel I’m ready and to manage such an illustrious club in League of Ireland circles at the age of 33 is a huge honour and something I’m hoping to grasp with both hands.
“When you’re somewhere for so long, or in a relationship for so long, to leave is always difficult.
“We had some memorable times and everything at Dundalk was positive over the seven-year period.
“But the time had come in the sense that this opportunity was too good to turn down, a club the size of St. Pat’s wanting you to go in as manager.
“That’s the view I took and it’s something I’m really excited about.”