St Patrick's Athletic host Dundalk on Friday night as the SSE Airtricity League's top two sides from last season clash in Richmond Park, kick-off 7.05pm (Live on RTÉ2).
After sluggish starts in the league to date, both sides will be hoping to take the three points on Friday as they aim to cut the gap to early pacesetters Shamrock Rovers and Cork City.
In last season's games, Dundalk claimed narrow 2-1 victories in Richmond Park and Oriel Park in April and June. However when it came to the crucial end of season clash between the Saints and the Lilywhites, Liam Buckley's side came out the victors as goals from Chris Forrester and Daryl Kavanagh saw off Stephen Kenny's side.
Speaking to stpatsfc.com ahead of Friday's televised match, Saints' manager Buckley spoke of last year's games as being an indicator of what fans can expect when the game kicks-off on Friday.
“Stephen has strengthened his side again this season and the few signings they made are very good. Last year we played in some great matches with Dundalk, and each time the game could have gone either way,” Buckley said.
“The games were decided on little things so we'll be trying to get things right from the first whistle. The cameras are back in Richmond Park, and with two top sides playing, there should be a bumper crowd in Inchicore, so the players and management are all really looking forward to the game.”
In team news, Buckley reports that both Rene Gilmartin and Ken Oman are doubts for Friday's game. Rene sustained a hamstring injury in the Saints 2-0 defeat away to Sligo Rovers in the Setanta Sports Cup last week, while Ken picked up a groin strain in last week's 0-0 draw with Derry City in the Brandywell.
For Saints' skipper Ger O'Brien, Friday's game is a throwback to last year's televised game against the Lilywhites, a game which the defender made a telling contribution by crossing for Chris Forrester's headed goal to help the Saints on their way.
O'Brien, when speaking to stpatsfc.com, outlined that the Saints' squad were under no illusions that Friday's game would be anything but a tough challenge. “When you think back to last season, all the games between Dundalk and ourselves were very tough and competitive. They were the side that pushed us close last year in the league, so naturally Friday's game will be a tough one.”
“Last September's game was a great occasion as both sides showed their quality, and there was huge support for both sides – hopefully Friday will be a similar occasion.”
Speaking about the Saints start in the league to date, O'Brien admitted that the league champions haven't hit top form to date, however he remains positive that the side are improving.
“We've dropped a few points lately, had a few decisions against us which has been disappointing, but there's no point going over it. We've got to move on, and we have done so by just working hard in training.”
“We know it's early days in the league, and from our experience last year, we know that we have the same points total after four games as we had at this point last season – funnily enough, we played Dundalk at that point too. So we're just going to knuckle down and keep working hard as we always do.”
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