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Monday 11 December 2017

Cup success would put gloss on season for Saints - Clarke

AS A lifelong supporter and for the majority of his career also a player with St Patrick's Athletic, Brendan Clarke has heard all the jokes about the Saints and their five decades of agony in the FAI Cup.

Some fans wonder if it would be best for the Saints (last FAI Cup win in 1961) to get knocked out of the competition in the first round just to get the pain out of the way early on, instead of dragging it on to the latter stages.

The Saints are marching on in the Cup again this season, Bohemians standing between Pats and a place in the last four as the Dublin rivals meet at Richmond Park in a quarter-final on Friday night.

"I have been to most of the finals we have lost since '61 so I understand what everyone has gone through. I was there as a fan when we lost in a replay in '96, I remember the finals in 2003 and 2006 when we lost again," says Clarke, who also played on the losing side for Pats in the 2012 final.

"You feel you have a good chance every year so as Liam Buckley says, you try to take each game in the Cup as it comes, someone has to win it so why not us?

Secure

"The league is probably out of our reach now but we need to secure a place in Europe. Cork are a few points ahead of us but Shamrock Rovers are not too far behind us so we have to compete in the league as well as the FAI Cup. It's a good competition and we have a chance of winning it so our focus is on Bohs this Friday."

Although the have had struggles since their financial collapse in 2010, Bohs have a decent record against Pats, especially at Richmond Park. Bohs have already knocked Pats out of a Cup competition this season, in the EA Sports Cup back in May.

"Owen Heary (pictured, above) has a good squad at Bohemians, they are well-organised and work hard for each other, and in this league if you work hard you get results. So we have to be ready for that on Friday," says Clarke "On our day we can beat anyone in the country so we have to be ready on Friday, go out there and perform against Bohs.

"The record has been good in the last while and we've had a lot of clean sheets which gives us hope, so we look forward to Friday. We have to work hard against Bohs but if we do our jobs we can get into the next round.

"We had a good win in Derry last week, it was a backs-to-the-wall sort of game, especially in the second half. I made a couple of saves and there were four or five chances blocked that, on another day, could have gone in. Derry were well worth at least a point," added Clarke, reluctantly accepting that the league champions are almost certain to hand over their title as Liam Buckley's men are 11 points behind Dundalk but they still have goals in mind.

"If the league was to end today and we only finished third we'd be disappointed," says the keeper.

"On paper we have a great squad but paper squads don't win you trophies. It's about finishing as high as we can in the league, trying to win the FAI Cup and then reassessing things ahead of next season."

Clarke is one of the few players in the Pats squad who has his future secured as he has a full season left after this term, but even that's not bringing financial stability.

"I was lucky enough to sign a two-year deal so I know where I will be playing next season but it's not a 52-week contract. It's nice to know that I will be here next year but I understand the frustrations of players who are on one-year deals and don't know where they stand. You wrap up the season at the end of October, maybe go into November if you're in the FAI Cup final but then you're looking into the Christmas period wondering where the income is going to come from.

"A lot of players are looking to things outside of football and trying to fit their football careers around work or education," says Clarke, who has his mind on a couple of coaching ventures to keep him busy in the off season.

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