Limerick FC relishing the challenge of trip to champions Dundalk
Martin Russell’s Limerick FC make the long trip to County Louth tonight to take on Dundalk at Oriel Park (kick-off 7.45pm). Both sides have made impressive starts to the season with Dundalk defeating both Shamrock Rovers and Sligo whereas Limerick beat Sligo before the early cancellation of their game against Derry City due to floodlight failure at 1-1.
Stephen Kenny’s side are aiming to win four league titles in a row this season. Despite this, the doubters are out in force this season due to the loss of key players Ronan Finn, Daryl Horgan and former captain Andy Boyle.
However, the same questions were asked of Dundalk after the loss of Richie Towell in 2015 and the team responded by winning their third league title in a row.
The Co. Louth men have started the 2017 Airtricity League season at a blistering pace as they accounted for title rivals Shamrock Rovers 2-1 and followed that up with a 0-4 away win at Sligo Rovers. The acquisition of Michael Duffy as well as the early season form of Patrick McEleney have been major factors in the positive start.
Stand-in captain and experienced centre-back Brian Gartland has been impressed with the start his side have made.
Gartland spoke to Dundalkfc.com ahead of the game and said, “To pick up three points in both games was brilliant especially with the lads out injured and it was a bit stop-start coming back later in the pre-season so the results were the main thing and we are delighted with that.”
When asked about Friday night’s opponents, Gartland said the squad are aware of the qualities Limerick possess but there are a few unknown quantities in the visiting line-up.
“They have a lot pf players that we know. There are a few unknowns like Tosi who got a hatrick on his first day so he clearly has quality and knows where the back of the net is. They’re a good side and have great pace on the wings through Dean Clarke and Ian Turner who we have played against before.”
The Lilywhites will be expected to beat the premier division newcomers at Oriel Park. However, Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny will be under no illusions following the fast start that the Shannonsiders have made to life back in the top flight. Kenny has several injuries to contend with heading into the game with Chris Shields, Shane Grimes, Sean Hoare, David MacMillan and captain Stephan O’Donnell all absent from proceedings.
Limerick supporters and players would have been livid at the abandonment of their game with Derry City due to floodlight failure at Maginn Park in Donegal last week. The long journey made by the club and its supporters did not have the desired outcome as only 25 mins of football were played.
Dean Clarke gave Limerick an early lead but his goal was cancelled out by Derry’s Ronan Curtis. Limerick will certainly take heart from the fact that they were well in the game up until it’s premature end.
Martin Russell was quick to remind everyone of the challenge facing his players this Friday night. When speaking to the club’s official website, Russell stated,
“it is probably the biggest challenge in domestic football at the moment, to pit yourselves against Dundalk, but it’s one we want to have and we’re looking forward to.”
When asked for injury updates, Russell was happy with the progress made by the injured trio Shane Tracey, John O’Flynn and Dave O’Connor who is yet to make his league debut for Limerick following his move from Shamrock Rovers.
Russell was very complimentary towards young centre-back Tony Whitehead who made a great start against Sligo Rovers.
“Tony has been able to step-up to the mark and this is mostly due to the way he was training when he wasn’t getting into the first team. He was always one of these characters that trains well and prepares well.”
Limerick can expect a big travelling support to the game on Friday night in anticipation of what will hopefully be a great night for the club in the home of the serial champions. With two vital home against struggling Bohemians and Finn Harps approaching next week, a positive result at Oriel Park would be a massive boost for the Super Blues.