Limerick FC face crucial test against Bray Wanderers

Limerick FC welcome Bray Wanderers to the Markets Field on Friday night in the Airtricity League Premier Division (kick-off 7.45 pm). Both teams will be aiming to bounce back from humiliating defeats in their last away league outings.

Limerick were thrashed 8-0 by perennial title challengers Dundalk while Bray suffered a 6-0 defeat in Tallaght at the hands of Stephen Bradley’s Shamrock Rovers. With Storm Emma causing havoc in the country and leading to the postponements of all last weekend’s national league fixtures, both managers have had a full week to re-vitalise their players.

Limerick manager Tommy Barrett spoke of the devastation caused by the manner of the defeat to the Lilywhites in Oriel Park in the aftermath of the game. Speaking to the club’s official website, Barrett stated;

“You’re obviously a bit embarrassed by the scoreline. You shouldn’t be losing any game by eight goals – it’s hurtful actually. You’re 4-0 down at half-time, you say okay, let’s go out and can we get a clean-sheet in the second half, and we just give away embarrassing goals. But we have to dust ourselves down and move on.”

Despite the heavy defeat, Limerick had delivered a solid start to life under Barrett by winning in Sligo and drawing with Bohemians having been denied a victory by a late Eoghan Stokes goal. Limerick will be able to recall Daniel Kearns and Cian Coleman to the starting line-up after both had to pull out of the Dundalk trip through illness. Also, it is likely that Mark O’Sullivan and Tony Whitehead will return to the starting team after both were rested in Louth.

Despite the return of Conor Ellis from injury and calls to include both O’Sullivan and Ellis, it is highly unlikely that Barrett will take the risk. It is a luxury that cannot be afforded in such an important game where the result is paramount.

With a full week’s rest behind them, a response will be expected from the Shannonsiders who had shown great determination and battling spirit throughout the previous two fixtures. Three points separates the teams in the league table as Bray are currently bottom with Limerick four places better off.

Although it is much too early to predict, the Super Blues have performed well against their predicted bottom half competitors thus far. As previously mentioned, there are plenty of positives for the team so far and results against Dundalk will not define Limerick’s season. Captain Shane Duggan has created both Limerick goals this season when operating in the number ten role.

In Brendan Clarke, the club possess one of the best goalkeepers in the league. After being largely written off and now providing their detractors with more evidence to support their claims, the motivation to prove doubters wrong will ensure that the side will not be beaten due to preparation or work-rate. Limerick teams across all sports have often been at their best when criticised.

One weakness which was brutally exposed by Stephen Kenny’s Dundalk was the lack of depth in the Limerick squad. The addition of midfielder Barry Maguire is certainly timely although we are unsure of how the new recruit will cope in the league.

Eoin Wearen is still visibly struggling in the central midfield role and competition is essential. Furthermore, striker Jeff McGowan will aid the management team but squad management along with the need to avoid needless suspensions , are vital components to avoid the inevitable dogfight which will ensue.

Bray Wanderers managed to achieve what their opponents failed to do, maintain a clean sheet at Oriel Park. It was a surprising start by Dave Mackay’s side who have also been tipped to occupy either the automatic relegation or the promotion/relegation playoff place.

An extremely disciplined display provided the platform for the draw. Recent former Limerick players Paul O’Conor and Aaron Greene will feature for the visitors. In fact, the latter could have stolen all three points from Oriel Park in the dying moments but he was denied by Gary Rogers.

Since then, the Wicklow outfit have lost to St. Patrick’s Athletic and Shamrock Rovers. Similarly to Limerick, goals have been hard to find for the Seagulls with just one goal courtesy of Gary McCabe against Pats. A deliberately conservative approach has resulted in a lack of creativity. However, players of the calibre of McCabe and Greene will need to be closely monitored by the Limerick defensive unit.

It is likely that Bray will adopt a similar 4-2-3-1 formation with a possible back four consisting of Dan McKenna, Hugh Douglas, Sean Heaney and Kevin Lynch. In midfield, Paul O’Conor has impressed the supporters since his arrival and was awarded with the man of the match award from various media outlets for his performance in Dundalk.

He will be partnered by either John Sullivan or Daragh Noone in the middle of the park although the former will be the favourite. Gary McCabe is likely to operate in front of the aforementioned duo in order to feed front man Aaron Greene. On the wings, Limerick native Ronan Coughlan and Cory Galvin have started every game for the Seagulls prior to this encounter. Following the return of the experienced centre-back Conor Kenna, the duo of Douglas and Heaney may be the sacrificial lambs for the trouncing in Tallaght.

Meetings in 2017:
15 September 2017: Bray Wanderers 1-1 Limerick FC
2 June 2017: Limerick FC 5-3 Bray Wanderers
25 March 2017: Bray Wanderers 0-1 Limerick FC

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