Limerick FC host Galway United at the Markets Field on Friday night in the penultimate game of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division season (kick-off 7.45 pm).
A point would be enough to guarantee Limerick premier division football next season after last week’s 1-0 win over Drogheda United. The stakes are even higher for Galway United as a defeat could relegate Shane Keegan’s men if results in the Sligo Rovers and St. Patricks Athletic matches go against them. However, a win could send the Tribesmen to 8th in the table as well as adding severe pressure to their hosts ahead of the final round of matches.
If Limerick were to lose along with positive results for the aforementioned Sligo and St. Pats in their home meetings with Derry and Cork, the Shannonsiders would be just two or three points clear going into the final weekend.
Limerick edged out the visiting Drogheda United last weekend courtesy of a Rodrigo Tosi penalty in the second half. It was a nervy performance from Neil McDonald’s men. While they never looked in danger of conceding, they lacked an attacking threat for much of the game. An early goal was crucial against the already relegated Boynesiders. However, Limerick’s slow tempo allowed Drogheda into the game and Pete Mahon’s side certainly gained confidence from that.
Norwich City loanee Joe Crowe put in a man of the match display in a defensive midfield role behind Bastian Hery and Lee-J Lynch in the absence of captain Shane Duggan. Although considering Hery has excelled in the defensive midfield role in recent weeks coupled with the Frenchman being less effective further forward, it is likely that Duggan will return to the Limerick midfield for the crunch clash.
Limerick manager Neil McDonald has a fully fit squad to choose from with Shane Duggan returning from suspension following a one-match ban for an accumulation of eight yellow cards. McDonald is confident that his side can replicate their recent good form and come out with a positive result from Friday night.
“If we apply ourselves, be solid and create the chances like we did last week – and then be clinical, we’ll be okay. We’re in good form. We have won our last two home games which is great and we’ve picked up two points away from home in two very important games. That’s no different now against Galway.”
Limerick vice-captain Brendan Clarke is wary of the visitors and says his teammates cannot afford to take the game lightly.
“Galway are a good team. You look at the middle three they have and Ronan Murray as well, who got the league’s Player of the Month for August. They have good players and have threats all over the pitch. We’ll put a plan in place to win the game.”
The experienced goalkeeper is urging a big crowd to attend the final home game of the season and was full of praise for the support against Drogheda.
“It has been a bit of a rollercoaster season but it would be nice to have a decent crowd at the Markets Field. We had 1,600 last week and they really helped us in the last few minutes. Hopefully we can end the season at home on a high.”
The visitors will be without Ronan Manning who is nursing a groin strain. Furthermore, there are doubts over the fitness of winger Gary Shanahan but Keegan is hopeful that the Limerick native will make the match day squad.
Since defeat to Limerick in the cup, the Eamonn Deacy Park outfit have been in great form with two wins over Derry City and fellow relegation strugglers Sligo Rovers. Also, two draws against Bray and St. Pats means they are unbeaten in four games but still find themselves in the relegation zone. As Brendan Clarke alluded to, Ronan Murray will be Galway’s dangerman as he has scored 15 goals this season.
Keegan is aware that his side must pick up positive results in their final two games and insists that they must win their own games before worrying about their rivals.
“We need to be aiming for a win, you would imagine it would put us in a good position heading into the final day, if we were to win. Ourselves, St Pats and Sligo Rovers all have games against difficult teams at the weekend. All we can do is focus on our own performance against Limerick. If we don’t put in a performance against Limerick, we can’t whinge about the teams around us not doing us any favours.”
Limerick and Galway have met on three separate occasions this season. In April, a stunning David Crawley strike rescued a point for Galway in Limerick. In July, an error strewn Limerick performance handed Galway a 3-1 victory at Eamon Deacy Park.
Most recently in the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup in September, the Shannonsiders advanced with a 1-2 win at Eamon Deacy Park.
Stephen Folan returns to Limerick where he spent the 2013 and 2014 campaigns with the Super Blues when the club played their home games at Thomond Park.
Galway have visited the Markets Field on three occasions. In the 2015 season, the Tribesmen picked up a convincing 2-4 victory. Last season, the side’s met in the EA Sports Cup with Limerick winning 2-0. This season’s encounter ended in a 1-1 draw.
Referee: Anthony Buttimer