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The St Patrick's Athletic defender is hoping that his side can start their 2014 campaign with a trophy as they meet Sligo Rovers in the first ever President's Cup

EXCLUSIVE
By Ronan Murphy

St Patrick's Athletic host Sligo Rovers in the inaugural President's Cup trophy on Sunday, and Saints defender Ger O'Brien believes the curtain-raiser provides the perfect start for the 2014 League of Ireland season.

The SSE Airtricity Premier Division champions take on FAI Cup holders Sligo Rovers at Richmond Park, with O'Brien looking forward to competing in the inaugural tournament. "It's a great occasion," O'Brien told Goal. "It's a fantastic competition.

"It's the equivalent of something like the Charity Shield which pits the cup winners against the league champions, and it's a great way to begin the season. It's such a long break and it's a nice little appetiser for all the players going back in."

President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, has provided the trophy for the competition which bears his name, and has been heavily involved in the promotion of domestic football in Ireland, even long before he was the Galway United president.

O'Brien was present as Higgins launched the tournament, and praised the 72-year-old for his knowledge and passion for the Irish domestic game.

"He's fantastic," O'Brien said. "Myself and [Sligo Rovers defender] Gavin Peers went to meet him last week for the launch. His knowledge of the league is fantastic, he knows all the players through the years. It's only when you get to speak to him that you get to know the extent of the interest he has.

"For myself as an Airtricity League player, and one who's been in it so long, it's superb to have someone like him. A lot of people in our own organisation could learn things from people like him.

"He told us that he keeps his Friday evenings free as much as possible so he can go get a game. He'll be at the Galway-Longford game in two weeks' time. He's the highest statesman we have in this country, a lot of people look up to him, and for him to promote our league so much and give his time is really good."

O'Brien believes that a victory on Sunday would be an excellent way for St Pat's to kick off their title defence, but highlighted the fact that many players will be focused on avoiding injury.

"It'd be nice," said the 29-year-old. "It's our final pre-season game really, and what you try in pre-season is to get fit and not get injured. We've been kicking along nicely and so have Sligo.

"You obviously want to win a trophy when you're competing for it, and that's exactly what we want to do.

"We have the home advantage this time, and hopefully get a big home support behind us, which will help us pick up the first bit of silverware of the season. It'd be a really good way to start the season."

St Patrick's Athletic take on Sligo Rovers in the President's Cup on Sunday, March 2. Kick off 16:00 GMT.

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