FAI Cup Champions St Patrick's Athletic begin the defence of their crown this Friday as they host Shamrock Rovers in the standout tie of the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup weekend (kick-off 7.45pm).
Liam Buckley's Saints will be looking to advance to the last 16 of the Cup competition by defeating their local rivals, while the Hoops go in search this year of success in the competition for the first time in 26 years.
The Saints enter the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup as Champions for the first time in 54 years, the Saints previous victory coming in 1961 when Tommy Dunne, a former Shamrock Rovers player, captained the Inchicore side to success - Dunne who recently passed away was due to turn 83 years old this Friday.
In team news, Pat's are without the services of Greg Bolger who sits the game out through suspension after accumulating five yellow cards. Saints' manager Buckley reports that skipper Ger O'Brien has made good progress on his hamstring injury and will face a fitness test before the game to determine his availability.
"Friday should be a great game. Ourselves and Rovers played recently and there was very little between us, I'd expect it to be no different on Friday," Buckley told stpatsfc.com ahead of what is the 250th game between St Pat's and Shamrock Rovers, and the 17th FAI Cup match between the clubs with both having won six ties each.
"The Cup is very different for us this year as we go into the game as Champions. We all know what it's like to play in the Aviva Stadium in November and experience that winning feeling so the players will be motivated to get the win Friday and take it from there."
The Saints were boosted last week with the return of 2014 top-scorer and Cup final winning hero Christy Fagan after he had been missing for almost two months with a knee injury. The former Manchester United player admitted to stpatsfc.com that he was delighted to get back on the pitch in Saints' colours, but was hoping to get back to winning ways this Friday.
"We were disappointed with last week, we didn't play great and the extra man then gave Dundalk that extra advantage. This week we know it'll be tough against Rovers. Having played against them in March and watching the recent game, it's clear they're a very strong team. They're very strong in defence and that shows in that they're unbeaten in the league so far."
"However we know from last year what the cup can be like so we'll be going out to try and win the game. There's no point looking ahead or thinking about anything other than this game so we'll focus on trying to play well and get the win come full time on Friday night."
Fagan, with a record to date of having scored nine goals in the FAI Cup for St Pats', needs just one more goal to join the club's FAI Cup record scorer Willie Peyton on 10 goals - both players have the honour of having scored winning goals in the FAI Cup finals for the Saints.
Ticket prices for the game are as follows:
Students/OAPs: €10 (Student ID is required)
Kids (Under 12): €5 (with an adult)
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