Fagan: Cup win is Pats' lifeline
They have already tucked away one cup in the trophy cabinet from this season, but St Patrick's Athletic need a win in the FAI Cup to make sure that the 2016 season is a success, not a flop.
That's the view of a medal-hungry and goal-seeking Chris Fagan as the Saints prepare to do battle with Cork City in the semi-final tomorrow (3.55pm).
St Pat's began the season with hopes of making a push for the title, but dismal league form has seen them slide down the table to eighth (or fifth from bottom). Winning their three league games in hand could shunt them up the table, though not far enough to push for a European place, so if they are to make it into Europe next term for the seventh sea son in a row, they need to reach the Cup final at least.
"Winning the Cup would cover up for what has been a poor season all round, but do that that we have to get to the final so it's all about Cork City now," says Fagan.
"Obviously we won the EA Sports Cup last month and got through a round in Europe in the summer, but if we can get past Cork and get to the final, winning the Cup would be massive. It's always been a big thing, winning the FAI Cup, but because our league form is so poor it's even more important.
"We have some big goals to aim for. Getting to the Aviva is a big deal, I was lucky enough to play in two finals there and I want a third, but as a club we need Europe, and the FAI Cup is our only route now."
The goals have dried up for Pats, long established as one of the free-scoring sides in the country, with just one goal in the last four league games, a fact that puzzles Fagan.
"It's hard to put your finger on, it's not for the lack of trying but when it's not clicking for you, there's not a lot you can do, it's been that way for us for a while now, not just the last month but all season. But we will keep working hard and the distraction away from the league this weekend could be good for us."
It's been a difficult season for Fagan as well as the club: he has scored six times in the cup and European games this term but he's scored just once in the league since April, prompting team-mates to joke that he's now saving all his goals for cup semi-finals and finals.
"It's another big occasion, a chance to get back to the Aviva, so I'm looking to get a goal tomorrow," he says. "We're massive underdogs as Cork are doing so well in the league, they are scoring lots of goals and it looks like they will push Dundalk right to the wire for the title, but we're motivated and we'll see if we are good enough."
The Cup is also a big deal for Cork, aiming to make amends for a final defeat last term. "From last year, we said that our aim was to see could we get back to the Aviva and this is an opportunity to do so," says manager John Caulfield.
"We want to get back to the Aviva, we want to win trophies and this is an opportunity for us. We have to be aware of the quality players they have, but, from our own point of view, I think it is really about us continuing to play at the high level that we have been doing."