ST. PATRICK’S ATHLETIC
After a tumultuous 2017 for the Saints, which saw them flirting with the relegation zone for much of the season, the new season breathes optimism at Richmond Park. For Liam Buckley’s side, 2018 is a fresh start. With a squad recharged and replenished, the Saints will be hoping greatly to improve, and with league champions Cork City paying a visit, is there a better way to lay down a statement of intent?
In a role reversal of when St. Patrick’s Athletic began the defence of their title in 2014, the Saints travelled to Turner’s Cross against a Cork City side who spent the most of 2013 fighting near relegation to eventually earn a sixth-placed finish. On Friday night, the factors are reversed for St. Pat’s, and for Liam Buckley, it represents a huge opportunity for his side.
“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."
With such a challenge, Buckley was firm to lay the pressure on Cork City FC.
“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."
In team news, Killian Brennan and Thomas Byrne will be missing through injury while new signings Kevin Toner, Simon Madden and Jake Keegan are all poised to make their debuts.
After last Sunday’s enthralling comeback over Dundalk in the President’s Cup, John Caulfield will be hoping to extend the momentum to Richmond Park as he bids to be the first ever Cork City manager to retain the league title. Not since Cork Athletic in 1950/51 have a Cork side retained a league title.
A challenge Caulfield himself had to address in his preparations for Friday night.
“The history of football in Cork suggests that retaining the title will be a difficult thing to do, but that is the challenge for us. This group has been breaking ground since it got together under John, so we want to continue doing that.”
But, the City legend quickly palmed away any talk of silverware, with the prime focus being laid on Friday’s opener against St. Pats.
“They will have been thinking about us for the last six weeks, as we have been about them. They’ll be thinking it will be a massive boost for them if they can take the champions down on the first day of the season, that’s what we are expecting. As I said earlier, we do have new dimensions to our game and we are going to need those to deal with the situations that other teams will put us under. We have to be prepared.”
In team news, Cork City will be without the services of Garry Buckley, Johnny Dunleavy, Josh O’Hanlon.
Referee: Robert Harvey
LAST TIME AROUND
The last league meeting between the two sides was in October 2017, with the freshly crowned league champions cruising into an early 2-0 lead, but a fighting comeback from Liam Buckley’s side saw the Saints run out 4-2 as they clinched safety.
St. Patrick’s Athletic 3/1, Draw 13/5, Cork City 5/6.
St. Patrick’s Athletic 1-3 Cork City FC.
St. Patrick’s Athletic
Injured: Killian Brennan and Thomas Byrne.
Cork City FC
Injured: Garry Buckley, Johnny Dunleavy, Josh O’Hanlon.