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League Cup falls nicely for Pat's ahead of Cork tie

BECAUSE it was the last major trophy won by the club, St Patrick's Athletic fans will have a soft spot for the League Cup.

But the trophy has become very important to the Saints this season – whether they win it or not – as a case of fortunate timing has allowed Liam Buckley's side to clear up a worrying disciplinary issue in tonight's quarter-final away to Shamrock Rovers.

Pat's will be forced to field a weakened side against the Hoops as three key first-team players – defender Ian Bermingham, midfielder Greg Bolger and striker Anto Flood – sit out the cup tie due to suspension.

Ex-Rovers man Bermingham has been an ever-present in the league this term, while Bolger has missed just one league game.

Their absence is blow for Pats, who had no league game last weekend due to postponements related to European fixtures, but the timing of the cup game has allowed those players to serve their bans tonight and free them up for the massive league game at home to Cork City on Friday night. There's no doubt that the clash with Cork is more important to the league leaders.

"It's been a good week off and now we've a quarter-final of a cup, so it's a big match. If we can get past Rovers, we'd only be one game away from a final, so we'll go to Tallaght and try and get through," said Pat's boss Buckley.

"Games out there between the two sides are always a good occasion, so we're looking forward to it," added Buckley, who can recall Killian Brennan and Kenny Browne after suspension.

Rovers have only won the competition once in their history, back in 1977, so their boss Trevor Croly insists that the Hoops will be taking the game seriously as they aim to bounce back from Friday's disappointing league draw at home to UCD.

"This is the quarter-final of a competition we'd certainly like to win, so we're looking forward to the game. A big semi-final fixture awaits the winners and we want to be there. We know it will be a tough game, St Patrick's Athletic are doing well, but we'll be going out to win the tie," said Croly.

Rovers received a boost this week as 'keeper Barry Murphy, sidelined by an injury picked up in a friendly against Birmingham City, is back in training with his team-mates, but is unlikely to feature tonight, while Tommy Stewart and Conor McCormack could join Murphy and David Elebert on the injury list.