North: President's Cup can send out a message
Sligo Rovers striker Danny North wants to lay down a marker in this Sunday’s President’s Cup decider with St Patrick’s Athletic in Richmond Park.
North, scorer of two goals in last season’s FAI Cup final which has presented Rovers the opportunity to compete in Sunday’s game, is keen to bring the new President's Cup back to Sligo this weekend.
He said: “It's another trophy to win and another test early on. It is still during pre-season but you want to win everything you play in.
“With Pat's they have made a few good signings, big names, they'll be the ones to beat this year. If we can get the win over them early on, it would give us a great advantage."
With this new fixture on the calendar, the Rovers camp have been speaking about a desire to be the first winners of the competition but also to continue the momentum in which the season has started following a clinical 4-1 win over Crusaders on Monday night in the Setanta Sports Cup.
North commented: “It is a good place to be around at the minute. The lads are looking sharp in training, we can't wait to play the next game.
“You look at when Dundalk played Pat's last week in the Leinster Senior Cup and both teams had strong teams out. Pat's came away with a 2-1 win.
“It's early doors but if you can get that win early doors, it puts people into a mindframe.
"‘Sligo Rovers beat Pat's. Pat's have signed all these big names, why aren't they beating Sligo?’
“It can be done and that's what we aim to do. We have a good enough team to do it most definitely.”
Top scorer in the 2012 season despite a serious knee injury in the middle of the campaign, North finished last year with a match-winning appearance in the Cup final and he has brought that form into pre-season with a goal in each of the three matches he has participated in.
A stiff groin saw manager Ian Baraclough avoid risking the former Grimsby Town striker last Monday but he could be involved this weekend.
The early goals have pleased the 26-year-old.
“It is always nice to get off the mark early," he admitted.
"You want to do it early in the pre-season games and carry it on into the competitive games and that's what I why plan to do
“The way we are looking to play at the minute is through the middle, getting the wingers in, and the chances that have come my way in pre-season I have managed to take, and so have the other boys as well.
“Goals are coming from all over the shop and that's what you want.
“When we came back, we did runs to see where we were at and overall the gaffer was happy with how it want.
“We had programmes to stick to and me personally I did it and played five-a-side and futsal back home over Christmas. It helped me stay sharp enough, I feel I'm come back quite well and taken it into games.”
The President’s Cup serves as a curtain-raiser for the upcoming SSE Airtricity Premier Division season as Sunday’s opposition St Pat’s defend their league title.
Rovers, Cup winners and third-place in 2013, are aiming to be in the reckoning so where does North see our prospects?
"One of five teams that are going to be up there,“ he said.
“I genuinely think it will be us, Pat's and Dundalk in the top three. Shams will cause problems, I don't think they'll win it but they have a good enough team to cause problems.
“Derry, Bohs have strengthened, Cork, Limerick, even Drogheda United, it's tough because all of those teams have improved.
“But we have improved as well on what we have, it will be an interesting season. If we can get off to a good start and stick at it through the second half of the season, there is no reason why we can't go all the way.
“We won the league the year before and that confidence carried on into the next season. We won the Cup now and both seasons have been seen as a success. I think it does help coming into the next season. If we get that good start and keep the buzz around the place, it will attract people if we are playing good football, we have the capabilities to win a few competitions.”
In 2012 North averaged a goal every 100 minutes with 17 hitting the net prior to the serious injury.
However, it ended hopes of reaching a milestone he had hoped to reach in the campaign.
Now back to full fitness, we put it to Danny if the ambition had returned.
“Well, I've got a goal target. I can't reveal it but I will be honest with you, it is optimistic.
“It's a high target, there is no reason why I can't get it. If I'm playing and doing well, there is no reason I can't. It will only benefit me and the team if I'm scoring goals.”
President's Cup: St Patrick's Athletic v Sligo Rovers, this Sunday 2 March, Richmond Park, Inchicore, kick-off 4pm.
Tickets for Sligo Rovers supporters are available from The Showgrounds on Thursday and Friday until 5pm and on turnstiles in Richmond for €15 for adults, €10 students and OAPs and €5 children.