The Saints get their 2013 Airtricity League campaign underway this Friday against Drogheda United in Richmond Park as they look to get off to a winning start against Mick Cooke's side.
Friday's league opener promises to be a tight game as little separated the two sides in their clashes last season and in the final league standings.
Drogheda came out on top 2-0 in the corresponding fixture in Inchicore last season, while two scoreless draws were played out in Hunky Dorys Park, leaving the Boynesiders just two points ahead of the Saints in second place by the end of the 2012 campaign.
However the Saints claimed bragging rights in the FAI Cup as they claimed a 3-1 victory on penalties against the Louth side having claimed a late draw to send the game into extra-time thanks to a late Vinny Faherty equaliser in their quarter-final replay last September.
Ahead of the his side's return to league action in Richmond Park, Saints' manager Liam Buckley expressed his happiness at his players' work during pre-season and his hope that his side would be ready for the difficult challenge he expects Drogheda to pose.
“Pre-season has been long and a lot of hard work, but the players have been great since we got back together in January. Now the opening game has finally come around and we're fully focused on Drogheda.
They'll again prove to be a really tough side to play against, as we saw in each of our games with them last year,” Buckley told stpatsfc.com.
“They really did have a great season last year, not just with the second place finish, but also in winning the EA Sports Cup too.
Mick [Cooke] has made some very good signings in the close season and I expect them to be challenging at the top of the league once more. From our end of things though, we'll be looking to get off to a good start and get a result for our fans.”
Buckley could give league debuts to four players as Killian Brennan, Conan Byrne, Conor Murphy and Sean Gannon are all pushing for places.
New Saints' goalkeeper Dave Ryan however will have to wait for his league debut as he nurses a hand injury, while Stephen Maher who joined the club this week misses out through suspension.
For goalkeeper Brendan Clarke, this Friday's game represents the beginning of his ninth season with the Saints.
However ahead of what will be his 50th league appearance in Pats' colours, the 27 year old admitted that the whole squad were looking forward in ending the long preparation for the 2013 season.
“Yeah everyone's buzzing for Friday's game, trying to get into the team. The competition for places throughout the squad is really good this year again so everyone is just keen to show their stuff in training,” Clarke told stpatsfc.com.
“With respect to the Setanta games as we all want to win every game we play, I think this is the game that everyone has really been looking forward to as we're keen to get off to a good start.
It will be a tough game as I know Mick Cooke and Robbie Horgan and they'll have Drogheda set-up very well.
They'll be very fit, organised and they'll be looking to win.
However we'll prepare right for the game, and hopefully get off to a winning start.”
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