Limerick FC face mammoth challenge against league leaders against Dundalk.

Limerick FC face a tough task on Tuesday evening as they welcome league leaders Dundalk to the Markets Field in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division (7.45).

The home side suffered a demoralising 1-2 defeat against Sligo Rovers at the Markets Field on Saturday night. Goals from Rhys McCabe and Greg Moorhouse gave the visitors a two goal lead before the returning Daniel Kearns netted in the last minute of normal time to end Limerick’s recent goal drought. Despite the relief of scoring for the first time in six matches, it proved to be no more than a consolation strike.

The Shannonsiders have failed to win in eight matches following the defeat which is beginning to worry manager Tommy Barrett. Speaking in the aftermath of the defeat, he stated;

“The lads are working very hard. We can’t fault the effort but effort doesn’t get you any points so we have to have a bit more quality and a bit more leadership as well as a bit more self belief.”

Limerick failed to create many chances during the game which disappointed Barrett.

“Yeah it was a disappointing result. You can’t fault the work rate. We went with two up front. We were trying to play but I felt we panicked and rushed it a bit. We were too quick to try and get it to the front two.”

On a positive note, new signing Conor Clifford made his debut and showed promise on an otherwise poor evening. Barrett was pleased with the former Dundalk man.

“Conor Clifford was excellent tonight. I thought he was our best player along with Shane Duggan. The two boys were good and kept the ball really well. It was also good to see Daniel Kearns coming back. He got a good goal. It was a good finish.”

The Super Blues will be at near full strength for the visit of the Lilywhites with only Eoin Wearen and Cian Coleman doubtful for the game. The defeat and the relative failure of the 3-4-1-2 formation against Sligo may result in the management team reverting to the 4-2-3-1 formation due to the return of many first choice players. Will Fitzgerald and Daniel Kearns will be pushing for recalls on the wing following positive cameo appearances late on.

With a full strength squad, Limerick can have no complaints in relation to Airtricity League experience. Brendan Clarke, Shane Duggan, Billy and Darren Dennehy and Mark O’Sullivan are vastly experienced at this level and along with Daniel Kearns and Shaun Kelly, all the aforementioned players have played in this league for a number of years. Although the squad is light in depth, the first 11 to take to the field on Tuesday night should have enough to respond to recent criticism and at least restore pride.

Unfortunately, the team have lacked creativity and were lethargic in attack. It appears the game plan is wholly reliant on the success of Mark O’Sullivan. Worryingly, lack of concentration has been costly in recent weeks. Both Sligo goals were certainly preventable. However, Rhys McCabe’s long range quick free-kick which sailed over the head of Clarke, was a clear example of the problems the Shannonsiders have caused themselves in recent times. Therefore, a match against high-flying Dundalk was not what the doctor ordered.

Dundalk arrive at the Markets Field after beating basement club Bray 0-2 at the Carlisle Grounds last Friday night. Goals from Pat Hoban and John Moutney were enough to secure the win and maintain Dundalk’s two point lead at the top of the league standings. It was the first time the Louth outfit were top since October 2016.

Manager Stephen Kenny has called for his players to regain focus ahead of the long trip to Limerick. Speaking to the club’s official website in anticipation of the game, he said;

“From our point of view we had a tough away match in Bray on Friday night. We got a good win and we have another tough away match tomorrow night in Limerick. We have to be very focused to get the three points.

Kenny has praised his players attitude in recent weeks but has highlighted that the Markets Field is a difficult place to visit.

“The players attitude has been terrific every week. We have to go and perform in difficult away venues, like Market’s Field, and that is the challenge for us.”

Striker Pat Hoban has regained his pre-Oxford United form for Dundalk and will be a huge threat with Robbie Benson providing the service. Michael Duffy ran the Limerick defence ragged in February and with big spaces open to him at the Markets Field, Shaun Kelly must be afforded protection to avoid a repeat.

The Lilywhites have only conceded one goal in ten games which shows the difficulty facing a lacklustre Limerick attack. Former Limerick player Stephen Folan has flourished in a partnership with Daniel Cleary. They are flanked by the two most recognisable and dangerous full backs in the league in Sean Gannon and Dane Massey. One thing is for sure, if Limerick are to end their recent poor form, they will certainly have to do it the hard way.

2018 Meetings: The teams met at Oriel Park on the 27th February. The Lilywhites inflicted an 8-0 defeat upon Limerick in what was a horrendous night for the visitors. Stephen Kenny’s men were 4-0 ahead at half time. Pat Hoban and Michael Duffy both grabbed a brace while former Limerick player Stephen Folan scored his first goal for the club. Karolis Chevdukas, Robbie Benson and Dylan Connolly were also on the score sheet.