Limerick host Shamrock Rovers in final game before mid-season break.

Limerick FC play host to Shamrock Rovers in the Airtricity League Premier Division at the Markets Field on Friday night (7.45).

It is the final game before a two week break for all Airtricity League clubs which will certainly please Limerick due to their heavy injury list. Also, the front loaded fixture list has been heavily criticised by all managers and players in the Airtricity League. Following Friday night’s fixture, most teams will have competed in 23 matches. When you take into account that the season started in mid-February, that is a staggering figure.

As previously alluded to, Limerick have been without the services of many key players in recent weeks including Conor Ellis, Danny Morrissey and Billy Dennehy. During last week’s 4-0 defeat at Oriel Park against Dundalk, the Shannonsiders lost the services of key midfielders Conor Clifford and Barry Maguire in the first half. Killian Brouder is also struggling with a knock.

Limerick manager Tommy Barrett is delighted with the timing of the pre-season break.

“The midseason break is great for us, considering we have 6-7 lads out that would normally be definitely in contention for starting. We have had a really difficult time with injuries. A lot of them have been muscle injuries, but a lot of unlucky injuries as well with ankle ligaments, broken hands and knocks.”

Despite the growing injury list, the former Shamrock Rovers player has urged his side to be positive on Friday night.

“We have to be positive on Friday, not give away any cheap goals and see can we get a result, and then hopefully we’ll come back after the break refreshed. I’d be happy now if we had only 2-3 players injured at any one time. We’ve had 5-6 injured, particularly in the last 7-8 weeks, and it is a really difficult period for us.”

Limerick are currently second from bottom and seven points clear of bottom side Bray who are now officially led by former Limerick manager Martin Russell. However, Barrett’s side are now two and three points adrift of Sligo and Bohemians respectively and both sides have a game in hand.

Barrett’s hand was forced against Dundalk as he was forced to switch the formation to a 3-5-2 with captain Shane Duggan featuring in an unfamiliar left wing-back role. Duggan conceded a penalty and endured a tough night against the pacey Dylan Connolly.

Brendan Clarke will remain in goal while Killian Cantwell, Tony Whitehead and Billy Dennehy are expected to feature in defence. As a result, Duggan should join Cian Coleman and Eoin Wearen in midfield. Will Fitzgerald is likely to start on the wing with Mark O’Sullivan still the only recognised striker available to the Limerick management team. Karl O’Sullivan may miss out due to exams.

Shamrock Rovers have had a poor season thus far and are currently fifth in the league table but trail leaders Cork City by a whopping 23 points at this stage of the season. Despite only winning eight games in twenty-two, Rovers are only nine points behind third place Waterford United. However, by the club’s high standards, results must improve.

Recently capped Irish international Graham Burke completed a move to English Championship club Preston North End on Wednesday. The game at the Markets Field will be the playmaker’s last appearance for the Hoops. Manager Stephen Bradley hopes they can send Burke away on a positive note. Also, captain Ronan Finn may make a return. Speaking to the club’s official website, Bradley said;

“It’s Graham Burke’s last game for us and it would be a good send off for him too. If we just keep doing what we’re doing and be more clinical at both ends we’ll be fine. Ronan Finn is back in contention but we’ll probably wait until after the break for Brandon Miele.”

Bradley is hoping that the experience gained from their win at the Markets Field earlier in the campaign will aid his side and send them into the break with back to back victories.

“We got a good win down there earlier in the season and we’ll be looking to do the same again. The way the games are going it would be good to get the three points and it could be a big win for us. It would set us up nicely for when we come back after the break.”

2018 Meetings: The clubs have met on two occasions already this season. Limerick were beaten 0-1 at the Markets Field in March. A penalty from recently capped Irish international Graham Burke was enough to secure the win for Rovers. In the return fixture at Tallaght Stadium in April, Danny Morrissey scored a superb late equaliser to rescue a point for the Super Blues after Burke had opened the scoring in the early stages.