Limerick FC travel to Waterford to face high flying Waterford FC at the Regional Sports Centre on Friday night (7.45). It is the Shannonsiders fourth Munster derby of the season and the game marks the halfway stage of the league campaign.
Limerick enter the game following a 0-1 defeat at home to St. Patrick’s Athletic last week. A Ryan Brennan goal in the second half was enough to cut Limerick adrift at second bottom. The only saving grace for Limerick was that the Dublin club beat Sligo Rovers 2-0 on Monday to ensure the gap did not increase.
Performances have certainly improved as of late although Limerick are still struggling in front of goal. Shane Duggan and Colm Walsh O’Loughlen missed great chances on Friday following on from two missed opportunities by Mark O’Sullivan in the week leading up to the game. The return of Cian Coleman in midfield after suspension has improved the midfield competitiveness.
Unfortunately, Limerick will be without Shane Duggan for the short trip as he is suspended after picking up five yellow cards this season. With that in mind, Conor Clifford may be pushed forward with Eoin Wearen and Cian Coleman playing behind him. Daniel Kearns returned from injury last week and could start on the opposite wing to Will Fitzgerald. Danny Morrissey has been a regular starter recently but Mark O’Sullivan may get the nod against his former club. Darren Dennehy, Shaun Kelly and Conor Ellis all remain doubtful for the trip through injury.
Waterford are currently third in the league table and only two points off second place Cork City. The club have enjoyed a superb season since returning to the top flight for the first time in ten years. The clear financial backing has certainly helped but they have spent money wisely on the likes of Bastien Hery, Ishmaeil Akinade and Gavan Holohan who have all been instrumental to their rise thus far.
Worryingly for Limerick, Friday night’s opponents are undefeated at the Regional Sports Centre with seven wins from eight matches and one draw. Their midfield diamond of Keegan, Hery, Holohan and Stanley Aborah were very effective at the Markets Field in March. The diamond allows both Duffus and Akinade to use their pace and power to great effect as a duo up front. Duffus has been a revelation since arriving although he is only on loan and is due to depart in July.
The Blues manager Alan Reynolds is taking nothing for granted and has seen an improvement in Limerick FC’s performances of late.
“Limerick will prove another challenge for us too. We’ve beaten them once already away from home but they’ll come here looking for a win and we have to be ready for that. They’ve only narrowly lost their last two games and have been improving – so we’re aware of that and will be ready to go. Our home form has been excellent and we know how important the fans will be again for that on Friday.
The Suirsiders will be without full-back John Kavanagh and centre-back Garry Comerford with knee and foot injuries respectively. The experienced centre-back Kenny Browne is also a major doubt.
Meetings so far: At the end of March, Waterford picked up a 0-2 victory over Friday night’s opponents at the Markets Field. Goals from Courtney Duffus and captain Paul Keegan were enough to secure a comfortable victory for Alan Reynolds team on the night.
Referee: Graham Kelly