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Fagan's fired up for Pat's big shot at glory

CHRIS FAGAN believes that his St Patrick's Athletic side can deal with the pressures of playing in a 50,000 capacity stadium and in front of a live TV audience in Sunday's FAI Ford Cup final meeting with Derry City.

While League of Ireland grounds are the bread and butter for the Saints squad, they did get a taste of the big time in their Europa League run earlier this season, which included a run-out at the stunning home of Bundesliga side FC Hannover, the same stadium which played host to the German national side last month.

Players who are used to appearing in front of 1,500 punters every week could freeze when placed on a big stage like Lansdowne Road but Fagan, the Saints' leading scorer this season, insists that Liam Buckley's men are ready, willing and able.

"We will all enjoy the occasion, we had a taste for this when we went to Germany to play Hannover in the Europa League in the summer," says Fagan ahead of Sunday's meeting with Derry, his first major cup final appearance in a career which has seen him play for clubs in England, Scotland and Spain.

"These are the stadiums that you want to play in as a player, you would love to be in those places every week so we will make do with the fact that it's just once a season that you get to play somewhere like the Aviva.

"Sunday will be my first time to play in the Aviva Stadium. I was there, just as a punter, for the Sligo-Shels game last year so it will be great to play in it. I know what it means to the Pat's fans to be in the final and we will have a great crowd there on Sunday, it should make for a great final," added Fagan.

"This would be my first medal so this is the biggest single game of my career, a major final in a great stadium and I can't wait.

"Derry are the form team coming into the final but there's no form on the day in a Cup final.

"They are a good side, they had a bad patch earlier in the season but they bounced back, they beat us well in the league in Derry last week, we didn't turn up on the night and they punished us for that so we will have to be a lot sharper in the final."

The former Manchester United trainee is guaranteed to start up front on Sunday as he's their leading scorer, but Fagan admits he should have scored more.

"I have 17 in all competitions now, I had set myself a target of 15 league goals for the season so I am a bit disappointed as I had chances to score more but in general I'm happy with how the season has gone.

"Missing chances are part and parcel of being a striker, you have to be prepared to miss them and get on with it if you do miss a chance, just be ready for the next one and make sure it goes in.

"The league has been disappointing, we were a few results short of the league title and a couple of draws cost us dearly.

"We should have been that bit closer to Sligo near the end," he says, eager to rectify that by finishing the season with some silverware.

"The squad we have is good enough to win the trophy. We have already secured European football for next season no matter what happens on Sunday, but we're desperate to win the Cup and then try for the league again next season," added Fagan, one of the Pat's players out of contract at the end of the season.

"Liam has said that he'd like us to stay and I can't speak for everyone but I see no reason why people would want to leave this club, we had a good season and if we can keep the squad together we could be even stronger next season.

"It's a very enjoyable place to be, we love working under Liam and he has us playing a nice style of football."