Limerick FC travel to the Carlisle Grounds in Wicklow this Friday night to take on Bray Wanderers in a crucial game in the race for promotion from the Airtricity League First Division (7.45).
Tommy Barrett’s side moved four points ahead of Friday’s opponents courtesy of an impressive 3-1 victory over Longford Town at the Markets Field last Friday evening. Before last week’s clash, Limerick’s record against their fellow promotion hopefuls had been poor with just two wins from 12 games, both coming against current play-off holders Cabinteely.
The home side bounced back from a narrow defeat to Shelbourne in style and Tomas O’Connor, brother of former player Paudie, opened the scoring with a header from a Shane Tracy corner. Longford equalised shortly afterwards but Kieran Hanlon neatly swept home a Shaun Kelly cross to restore the lead before Lee Devitt scored his second of the season with a superb solo goal.
Clyde O’Connell made his full return and started in central midfield with the absence of former Regional team mate Sean McSweeney who is currently away with the Irish University squad. The robust midfielder put in an energetic display and kept Longford dangerman Jack Doherty quiet. In truth the midfield partners, Jason Hughes and Darren Murphy were also instrumental in the victory.
With Cabinteely’s victory over Bray, it was a vital win for the Super Blues as it kept them just a point behind their Dublin rivals while also dragging Neale Fenn’s Longford back into the play-off mix.
Despite many players leaving the club in recent weeks including Connor Ellis, Killian Brouder and Colm Walsh O’Loughlen, the core group of players which have led Limerick remain and with eight games remaining and after a turbulent season off the pitch, the team remain in a great position to challenge for the play-off right until the end.
The likes of Robbie Williams, Jack Brady and Darren Murphy have been virtual ever-presents and epitomise the attitude needed to overcome recent struggles. The biggest obstacle to Limerick’s unlikely promotion push would be injuries and suspensions with such a small squad. Barrett was only able to name five players on the substitutes bench last week compared to the oppositions seven. The spine of the team must remain injury-free if the squad is to achieve a play off place.
It appears as though former underage player Sean Madigan will return to the club after a brief spell in the Limerick District League with Ballynanty Rovers. Barrett has revealed that the club are attempting to bring in a couple of players as the squad is light. Furthermore, Regional United left-back Alan Murphy is due to return while rumours are circulating about a possible return for Stephen Kenny from Cobh Ramblers.
“We would have let Sean go to Ballynanty last year and he has been training with us all the time. We are hoping to get him in and he is another good young lad that came through the under-19s. We could do with a few more players and we are on the look out but it is hard to get players as it is a big commitment.”
The Shannonsiders have met Gary Cronin’s Bray side on two occasions already this season with both side’s picking up a solitary home victory. In the first encounter, the now departed Connor Ellis missed a first half penalty and goals from Joe Doyle and Paul Keegan gave the Seagulls the win. Limerick enacted revenge when the side’s met at the Markets Field with a 1-0 victory.
A win over Bray would create a seven point gap between the sides and virtually ensure a five way race for promotion. With just six points separating 2nd to 5th currently, a realistic promotion push is still on the cards.