St Pat’s boss Jon Daly eyes ‘more game time’ for Irish U17 star Mason Melia – but primary focus is on Dundalk clash

Newly-appointed St Patrick's Athletic manager Jon Daly is pictured at Richmond Park, Inchicore. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Seán O'Connor

St Patrick’s Athletic boss Jon Daly expects striker Mason Melia to make an impact in his first-team this term but has urged caution in placing expectations on the highly-rated Ireland Under-17 cap.

Fresh from earning his Premier Division debut this month, the 15-year-old’s brace against Hungary this week helped Colin O’Brien’s side seal a Euro U-17 quarter-final clash against Spain this Saturday.

All of Ireland’s goals in the 4-2 win came from the Saints academy, with midfielder Luke Kehir also bagging two goals against the hosts, and Daly lauded the pair, speaking to the media for the first time after being appointed first-team manager this week.

League of Ireland Premier Division Team of the Week

“It's a fantastic result for them, hopefully they can go even further out there,” said Daly, who has signed a contract at Richmond Park until the end of 2025.

“It’s great for the lads and great for the academy. It's good to see young lads playing at a level like that. Mason got his debut here before he left and has gone out in good spirits.

“We very much see Mason as someone who will come in and make an impact at first team level here.

“The next step for him is more game time in our first team and then build it up. We can’t get ahead of ourselves, he’s 15. He has a long way to go but has done very well so far.

"When we see lads doing well at U-19s, we will push them into first team training. If they do well at that level they are ready to go.”

With 18 of the 20 Ireland U-17 squad currently based with League of Ireland clubs, Daly insists not every academy player will be ready to train with the first-team, like Wicklow native Melia has done.

"Everyone is physically different, I think Mason has shown he has the capability to deal with the physical aspect of it,” said Daly.

"Players that find it easy at their own age group, if they don't bump up an age they can develop bad habits.

"That’s right through the academy, not just for Mason. If people are excelling at their own age group they need to be tested at the next.”

"Background noise, we have no control over that. It’s a reflection of where the lad is at which is a positive,” added club Technical Director Alan Mathews, when asked about Melia being tracked by clubs from across the water.

Daly’s first test as permanent boss will be against Dundalk tomorrow, who they lost 5-0 to last March. In his first post as a first-team boss, the Dubliner has his sights set on leading the Saints to silverware.

“We want to be challenging at the top end of the table, we want to qualify for Europe. That’s the ultimate goal for St Pat’s, to be winning leagues and trophies. That’s where the club wants to go. I’m going to work as hard as I can to make that a reality,” said Daly, whose side sit in fourth, level on points with the Lilywhites.

“Dundalk have got Patrick Hoban who has scored a lot of goals, Connor Malley in midfield is good, Alfie Lewis who was here too.

"They have got good players in the building, but we know we can hurt them in certain areas, we’ve got good players in good form. The way I work is focusing on what we do."

The 40-year-old takes the reins at Richmond Park having arrived in December 2021 to become former manager Tim Clancy’s assistant.

After taking interim charge following Clancy's resignation earlier this month Daly made no secret of his desire to take the permanent job, and after leading the Saints to three wins in four, the club’s hierarchy opted to appoint him on a two-and-a-half-year deal.

“I think the next step for me was always going to be a management one,” added Daly, whose family remain in Scotland.

“It (management) is something I looked at in the last couple of years in my playing career. You get the bug for it and start wondering where you want to go with it.

"I back myself on the pitch in terms of training, but I do think I have the temperament to go into management and deal with the stresses of it.

“I said from the start, I made it known to Alan (Mathews) and the chairman that I would like to be considered.

"Then the performances of the players showed that they bought into what we were trying to do.

"The players have delivered on the pitch and as a staff we have to maintain that, starting tomorrow.”

Mathews added: “We have full faith in Jon's ability to take the club forward.

“We went through a process and having come through it, we're absolutely 100pc happy and supportive of Jon and everything he wants to do going forward.

"We feel he has the energy and commitment and drive. We have seen that for the last 18 months on a daily basis, the extremely hard work ethic and enthusiasm he brings in all aspects of the club, from underage to senior.

"We’ll have ups and downs but we'll support Jon in everything we can.

“The knee brace has come off, Joe is still on the crutches. It’s a slow process, he will do everything right and make sure he doesn't leave any stone unturned,” Daly said of centre-half Joe Redmond, who will be sidelined for a number of months after the Saints captain underwent surgery on a serious hamstring injury earlier this month.

St Pat's have no other injury concerns ahead of Friday’s league clash.

More League of Ireland

Top Stories