St Patrick's Athletic return to competitive action for the first time in 2017 as they travel to the Carlisle Grounds to face Bray Wanderers in the fourth round of the Leinster Senior Cup on Tuesday night (kick-off 7.45pm).
St Pat's manager Liam Buckley will have the opportunity to give a number of new signings a first competitive start as his side continue their preparations for the beginning of the SSE Airtricity League season when they host Bray in Richmond Park on February 24th.
The game is a repeat of last year's fourth round tie between the two sides when the Seagulls claimed a 3-1 win through goals from Ryan Brennan (2) and Dean Kelly following Billy Dennehy's first half opener for the Saints.
In team news, Liam Buckley confirmed to stpatsfc.com that he has a full squad to select from including new signings Patrick Cregg, Gavin Peers, Kurtis Byrne, Barry Murphy and Alex O'Hanlon.
"We're all looking forward to Tuesday night and getting back into competitive action. All teams are still building up their fitness ahead of the league so that is the priority, but at the same time you want win any game or competition you're involved in so we'll be trying to get the result.
"The team have been working hard over the past few weeks so it'll be a good opportunity for them to impress the Pat's supporters and get the season up and running. We'd a lot of tight games against Bray last season so another close match is likely to be on the cards."
One Saints' player relishing Tuesday's game is Michael Barker. Having finished the 2016 season on the sidelines with an ankle injury, Barker told stpatsfc.com that he is itching to get back playing and the pre-season to date has him confident 2017 could be a good year for the side.
"It was a frustrating end to the season for me last year as I was in the stands watching the games instead of being out there trying to make an impact," Barker admitted. "That made me that little bit more eager to get back on the field during pre-season and work hard to up the fitness levels and push for a place in the team.
"We've a really good mix in our squad of youth and experience and I'm really hopeful that we can achieve things this season. Training has gone really well and the lads have all worked hard and there's a great spirit in the dressing room so we're all looking forward to getting the season underway."
The prospect of facing the Seagulls three weeks ahead of the two sides meeting again on the opening night of the league is not lost on the Dubliner, and he admitted it will probably lead to a more competitive Leinster Senior Cup game. "It's interesting that we play Bray again in a few weeks' time in the league.
"As players, we want to win every time we go out on the field. At the same time though, both teams might not field their strongest teams, or want to reveal everything ahead of the league opener so it'll be interesting. From our side though, we want to win. At the end of the season, you want to look back and see some silverware won so this gives us a chance to do that."
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