Limerick FC host Longford Town at the Markets Field in the SSE Airtricity League First Division on Friday night (7.45pm). The visitors are currently seven points clear of Limerick.
Last weekend, Tommy Barrett’s men were narrowly defeated 0-1 by Shelbourne at the Garryowen venue. It was a very tight contest which could have easily went Limerick’s way.
In the first half, the home side were awarded a penalty for a foul on Kieran Hanlon but Darren Murphy’s inexplicable attempt at a ‘Panenka’ style penalty left a lot to be desired as it went over Colin McCabe’s crossbar.
With the game level at the time of the penalty miss, it may have totally changed the outcome. Another disaster struck shortly afterwards when Jack Brady attempted to shield a slow rolling ball over the end line for a goal-kick but was dispossessed by Ciaran Kilduff before the former Dundalk man slotted home from a tight angle. It is the first high profile mistake from the Limerick netminder in an otherwise exemplary season.
It was always going to be difficult to come back and Limerick struggled to create chances but also limited their opponents to very little opportunities. Barrett felt that the squad “maximised themselves” and couldn’t ask or anymore. He re-iterated that the aim will be to continue a play-off challenge but recognises how difficult that will be.
“We will do our best but even that is going to be difficult. Everyone else is strengthening and even though we may sign or two, they will cost nothing. other clubs can sign professional players. Even the likes of Wexford are bringing back players who were with them previously and have games under their belt and we are signing lads like Clyde (O’Connell) who don’t have that. “
As mentioned by the Limerick manager, Clyde O’Connell returned to the club from local junior club Regional United. O’Connell stood out during his season at junior level and was instrumental in Regional reaching the FAI Junior Cup Semi-Final before the well documented controversy.
However, it is a sign of how limited Barrett’s options are when O’Connell, who had only officially joined the day before the game, was brought on at centre-back with 15 minutes remaining. Rumours are circulating about the future of Will Fitzgerald who is reportedly due to leave the club, with St. Patrick’s Athletic believed to be one of the club’s interested in gaining his services.
It would be another bitter blow for the club following the departure of Connor Ellis last week. Furthermore, the contracts of Killian Brouder and Colm Walsh-O’Loughlen have expired this month and with the current financial deficiencies, it will be interesting to see if the club can retain the services of the improving duo with rumours that other first division clubs interested.
Longford Town arrive on Shannonside just four points behind leaders Shelbourne in second place. Neale Fenn’s side have the best defensive record in the league conceding just 11 goals overall. Despite a strong home record, the Midlands club have only picked up three victories in nine away outings and drew 0-0 with the Super Blues on the opening night of this season.
In May, Limerick were beaten 1-0 at City Calling Stadium in Longford after Sean McSweeney received a straight red card for an innocuous challenge.
Captain Shaun Kelly looks sey to return after missing the Shelbourne game with a virus and with the squad stretched to the very limit, it is likely he will be one of few changes along with a replacement for Brouder.
Last week’s loss was the team’s first at the Markets Field this season and the will need to return to winning ways at the venue tp keep the pressure on Cabinteely in fourth place, which is the final play off spot.
However, with the club losing key players on a weekly basis, it appears a season which promised a play off chase, is in danger of petering out and losing momentum.