St Patrick's Athletic return to FAI Cup action on Saturday afternoon as they host Pike Rovers in the second round of the Irish Daily Mail FAI Senior Cup second round (Kick-Off in Richmond Park, 3pm).
The Saints will be looking to advance to the third round of the competition against non-league opposition for the fifth time in the last seven years as the Saints begin their quest to reach the Aviva Stadium on November 6th.
However it is opponents Pike Rovers who last featured in the Lansdowne Road stadium having featured in the recent FAI Junior Cup Final which the Limerick side lost 1-0 defeat to Dublin side Sheriff YC last weekend.
Speaking to stpatsfc.com ahead of the second round FAI Cup game, Saints' boss Liam Buckley revealed he remains without the services of Darren Dennehy (hip) as well as duo Christy Fagan and Conan Byrne through injury, while Ian Bermingham will face a late fitness test. In more positive news, goalkeeper Conor O'Malley is available having returned to full training.
"We're expecting a very competitive game against Pike Rovers on Saturday," Buckley admitted. "I saw them play in the FAI Junior Cup final only last weekend and they were impressive. That experience should stand to them and they've proven their one of the leading sides in the country at junior level."
"The start of an FAI Cup campaign can set the heart racing and you always hope to reach that big day at the end of the season. But the players know well enough that we've got to take it one game at a time and try to progress past each round."
For Saints' midfielder Sam Verdon, the past month has seen him feature prominently in the Pat's first team and he is relishing the run of games he has received. Verdon is hoping to again feature on Saturday as the players ready themselves to face a Pike Rovers team that he believes will test the Saints.
"Playing a non league side like Pike Rovers is that bit more testing as both sides are not used to playing one another. We have huge respect for them though as they've shown very recently that they're a decent side having reached the junior cup final," Verdon told stpatsfc.com.
"That said, Liam Buckley and the management team will brief us ahead of the game as they normally would and we'll try and focus on their strengths. But more importantly, we've to do the right things and if we do that, we know we can beat most teams at home."
Verdon was a part of the Saints squad in the 2014 season, a season that saw Pat's end their 53 year wait to lift the FAI Cup. The memories of that year are still fresh for Verdon, however having missed out on a place in the matchday squad due to injury that year, the midfielder admits that he is personally determined to get back to the Aviva with the Saints.
"That year was fantastic. Seeing what it meant to the supporters following the win over Derry City that year, it really was something special. To end that 53 years or whatever it was, it meant a lot to everyone. Seeing that all drives you on as a player, so the aim is end the two year gap to when we last won the cup."
"We'd a good win against Finn Harps on Tuesday, so we've been good in camp and training this week. We've had a lot of games lately so it's all been about recovery lately and there hasn't been much training. So we know if we can get through this game on Saturday, we'll be back to the more regular schedule so there's huge motivation for us to get the win."
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