Kavanagh keen to make amends


SOCCER: St Patrick's Ath (0) v IBV (1)FLANKED BY his two strikers as he talked about tonight’s Europa League game against IBV Vestmannaeyjar, St Patrick’s Athletic manager Pete Mahon was careful not to subject the pair to anything more than gentle ribbing about their finishing in Iceland last Thursday.

Afterwards, though, Daryl Kavanagh had the look of a man who knew better than to take his manager’s comments too lightly.

“Ah, yeah,” he sighed, “I’m sure he was a bit serious about it too. I know I was a bit disappointed myself but it’s a big step up in Europe and I think we needed to be more clinical over there because we definitely could have got something out of the game.”

How costly the Irish side’s various misses, including a poor enough one by Kavanagh himself late on, prove to be in the end will not become apparent until this evening but down the years a failure to take chances has consistently been the undoing of League of Ireland sides in Europe and tonight’s hosts know they can certainly not afford any more slip-ups.

With Kavanagh and Danny North, who also share a house, having forged a prolific partnership over the past few months there is certainly the basis for hope that the 1-0 deficit can be overhauled but in each of the club’s last two games, they have drawn a blank and both know the importance of getting back on track this evening.

For the 24 year-old striker from Carrick-on-Suir, however, any recovery by the Inchicore outfit this evening would be comfortably overshadowed by his own journey back from the brink over the last few months. Kavanagh’s life has been thrown more than once into turmoil by drink and drug addictions that have contributed to some serious brushes with the law.

“I had a few problems over the years with drinking and drugs and trouble-wise,” he acknowledged recently, “there were thefts, attempted thefts, attempted robberies and stuff. I had drunk and disorderlies against me as well. It’s a life I want to leave behind me.”

A conviction for robbery involving a fake gun, in particular, might have ended in a long prison sentence but Kavanagh has repeatedly benefited from the goodwill of others determined to offer him another chance.

As he enjoys what is probably the best form of his career at Richmond Park just now, he seems to have matured to the point where he is a match for the challenge of taking those opportunities to put his past behind him.

The establishment of a network of treatment and support that started with a 28-day course of rehab with Aiséirí in Cahir last autumn when his latest round of difficulties resulted in his contract with Waterford United being cancelled may just, to judge by his demeanour now, have been a turning point.

“I’m told what to do and I need to keep doing those things,” he says with impressive candour. “It’s a programme that I’m on. It’s like soccer, when you’re training, I’ve to train off the field to keep away from my habit. It’s hard work but what isn’t? If you want something you have to work hard at it. I’m happy now and there’s more to come.

“This time last year I would have been picking up the papers and I would have been in the court pages,” he continues. “I want to put it behind me but it’s still my past and people are entitled to ask me about it.

“I’ve come here and they’ve given me every opportunity to do that by helping me. I still had to get help off the field but it’s great. I’ve settled in up here so fast. I wasn’t expecting to settle so fast really and it’s been such a turnaround for my family. They’re here very game supporting me and I get on a lot better with them now.”

They’ll be there again tonight, no doubt, hoping he and his housemate can rediscover the touch that had yielded goals for at least one of them in each of the eight league games between the last two encounters with Shamrock Rovers.

Pete Mahon knows his players must perform at the other end of the pitch too, with Gary Rogers needing to avoid any moments of madness like the one that handed IBV the penalty from which they scored a week ago and his back four, the full backs in particular one suspects, needing to be a little more on top of things defensively.

The plan seems to be, as it is so often in these cases, to keep things steady for an hour or so then step up the search for a goal.

Stephen Bradley is fit and looks set to start but Dave Mulcahy seems less likely to feature due to a knee problem and if he does miss out then Mahon’s has three players – Paul Crowley, Shane McFaul and Ian Daly – for two other places.

If whatever combination he settles on can counter the impressive movement of the visitors’ midfield and attack, ensuring an away goal is not conceded while Kavanagh and company take the chances that should come their way as the evening progresses, there is every chance that they can edge through to earn what will most likely be a trip to Kazakhstan in the next round.

They will all have to be firing on a cylinder or two more than was the case in Tallaght last Sunday, though.

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC(probable): Rogers; Pender, E McMillan, Shortall, Bermingham; Bradley, McFaul, Crowley; Kavanagh, North, Doyle.