- Thursday February 15th, 2018 @ 21:11
St Patrick's Athletic begin their 2018 SSE Airtricity League campaign on Friday night as they host champions Cork City in Richmond Park (kick-off 7.45pm).
The Saints head into the 2018 season off the back of a strong end to the 2017 campaign which included a 4-2 home win over league champions Cork last October.
Pat's have been busy over the pre-season adding the eight new players to the squad including the likes of Kevin Toner (Aston Villa), Simon Madden (Shamrock Rovers) and Jake Keegan (FC Edmonton).
Looking ahead to the opening game of the season, Saints' goalkeeper Barry Murphy reflected on how pre-season went and how it has all built up to Friday's league opener. "It's been a tough pre-season, but it was good to get a few wins under our belt. We've able to put a few things into practice, playing the ball out from the back and playing how we want to," Murphy told stpatsfc.com.
"It's a great game to start with. Cork are going to come in high spirits from the win in the President's Cup Final against Dundalk last weekend. They are tough competitors and they have signed a few good attacking players, but we've also signed some good players. We feel we've made some good progress over the pre-season and we hope to give them a good game."
In team news, Liam Buckley is without the services of Killian Brennan and Thomas Byrne through injury, but otherwise has a full squad available for selection.
Reflecting on the prospect of facing the Leesiders on Friday, Buckley was optimistic ahead of what he admits will be a tough game. "It's an exciting one to open the season with for everyone at St Pat's," Buckley told stpatsfc.com.
"They were the number one team in 2017 and deservedly got the plaudits last year. John Caulfield has made a number of signings and will obviously be aiming for honours again this year. It's the opening night of the season so we know they'll be a big crowd down at it from both sets of supporters. From our point of view, we have worked really hard both on and off the pitch over the close season and we are aiming to give our great support a performance to be proud of."