The season started for Aberdeen in the tranquil surroundings of Richmond Park in Dublin, but it is Nyon in Switzerland which is uppermost in manager Derek McInnes’ thoughts.
The Reds will find out today who their first qualifying round opponents in the Europa League will be when the draw is made at Uefa headquarters and it is European competition which is at the forefront of thoughts.
The first competitive action of the new season is less than two weeks away now with the first leg looming on Thursday, July 3, and for Aberdeen it’s full steam ahead following their five-week break.
The defeat to Motherwell in the final minute of the final game of last season has shaved two weeks off of Aberdeen’s close season break and McInnes, his assistant Tony Docherty and head of sport science Graham Kirk have been left with the difficult task of cramming a full pre-season preparation programme into three weeks.
A challenge and it is the players who have felt the burden with three training sessions a day being the norm on a daily basis at the team’s base in Ireland.
Saturday’s visit to Irish league champions St Patrick’s Athletic likely came as a welcome break from the punishing schedule for the players and it was clear McInnes was eager to get the team which did so well for him last season out on the pitch again as quickly as possible.
With the exception of captain Russell Anderson, who was rested due to a niggling knee injury and Niall McGinn, who only rejoined the team on Thursday following international duty in South America with Northern Ireland, the starting 11 against St Pats consisted of the tried and trusted players of the last campaign.
McGinn was on the bench which led to Scotland under-17 international Scott Wright, 16, earning his first start for the club.
While this was Aberdeen’s first outing of the new campaign their opponents are midway through their league season and the difference in match sharpness was evident as the home side raced into an early lead.
It was a simple case of the defence switching off as they failed to deal with Conan Byrne’s inswinging corner and Mark Quigley rose unchallenged to head the ball past Jamie Langfield from inside the six-yard box.
Aberdeen’s response was swift with Joe Shaughnessy having a header saved by home goalkeeper Brendan Clarke before Peter Pawlett had a goalbound shot cleared off the line by defender Conor McCormack, but they were soon punished for switching off again in the 17th minute.
It was all too easy again as Chris Forrester collected the ball on the edge of the box for St Pats and with no-one attempting to close him down he was able to look up and pick his spot before firing a fine rising shot past Langfield from 20 yards.
Willo Flood should have hauled a goal back within minutes of the second goal when Pawlett and Adam Rooney combined to create a chance but the midfielder curled his low shot past Clarke’s left post.
Aberdeen continued to struggle as the first half drew towards and end and they were fortunate not to be 3-0 behind at the break when a fine passing move ended with St Pats attacker Quigley racing clear on goal but his attempted lob over Langfield landed on the roof of the goalkeeper’s net.
Cammy Smith and McGinn were introduced for the second half and the duo made an immediate impact.
Smith’s his low drive was parried by substitute goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin and Rooney was on hand to convert the rebound to halve the deficit.
By the hour mark it was all square as Flood tackled St Pats defender Derek Foran on the edge of the box and McGinn nipped in to fire home the equaliser.
It was one-way traffic towards the home goal in the second half and the shots on target raced into double figures in a one-sided spell as Lawrence Shankland, McGinn and Declan McManus all tested Gimartin.
But there was almost a sting in the tale when St Pats won a free kick on the edge of the Aberdeen box five minutes from time which Langfield tipped on to his crossbar.