ST PATRICK'S Athletic hope that their miserable luck in the Setanta Sports Cup can finally change in 2014.
The Premier Division title holders would love to add the title of all-Ireland champions to their current status as league winners, but Pat's are anything but a cup side as they have not won the FAI Cup since 1961 and, apart from reaching the final on one occasion, they have struggled in the Setanta Cup, with just one win in their last seven games in the competition.
The bookmakers do not appear to be taking that form into account as Fermanagh side Ballinamallard United, making their Setanta Cup debut at home to Pat's tonight, are rated at 13/2 to win, even though the Irish League outfit are almost at the end of their season, while this is the first proper game of the season for the Saints.
Keeper Brendan Clarke has been at the club for almost all of their Setanta campaigns since the Saints first entered in 2007, and he hopes that the form can be turned around.
"We've been unlucky in the competition lately as we had games against Glentoran last year and Cliftonville before that where we had situations where we should have scored, or just got hit with goals on the counter. It has given teams something to hold on to often, or they've just scored at the right time, so we've been a bit unfortunate," says Clarke.
"But with the change of format where a win in this round would put us into a semi-final, we're all really looking forward to the game as that tag of all-Ireland champions would be nice."
While the bookies do not give Ballinamallard much of a hope, Pat's boss Liam Buckley has done his homework.
"This game is going to be a tough one for us as we've had Ballinamallard watched by Dave Campbell on our coaching staff, and we know they're a decent side," said Buckley, who hopes to hand a debut to Derek Foran and Mark Quigley, returning to Richmond Park for a second spell.
"The game is in the middle of our own pre-season preparations, so a competitive game will help us get ready for the start of our season, and I'm expecting it to be a really competitive game."
Sligo Rovers will also include new faces as they take on Crusaders in Belfast.
Eric Odhiambo, Danny Ledwith, Paul O'Conor and Kalen Spillane are all in line for their competitive debuts, but Sligo were last night still awaiting confirmation on whether they could call on Seán Maguire, the Ireland U19 cap signed on loan from West Ham United on Friday.
"It is great for us at this time of year as part of our preparation to go and play against technically good players and you also have to be able to combat a physical threat which we have to be ready for," said Sligo boss Ian Baraclough.
"It would be nice to progress in this competition. I'm not sure how much you can say you are all-Ireland champions if you win it, but that is what the competition stands for. It's a good competition. I've enjoyed being part of it and to go and win it would be great for this football club."