Limerick FC will make the long trip to County Louth on Tuesday to take on Stephen Kenny’s fancied Dundalk side in the Airtricity League Premier Division at Oriel Park (kick-off 7.45 pm).
It is a quick turnaround for both teams but Dundalk have had an extra day to rest following their 0-0 draw against Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght on Friday night. The Shannonsiders were denied a second win in a week against Bohemians on Saturday evening at the Markets Field as a late Eoghan Stokes goal cancelled out Cian Coleman’s opener to level the tie.
On reflection, a draw was certainly a fair result. Four points from a possible six is a solid start from the Super Blues as many had tipped Limerick to pick up a maximum of one point from the first two fixtures.
Despite Dundalk being clear favourites and many expecting a backlash from the Lilywhites who have failed to score in their first two games, Limerick manager Tommy Barrett is confident that his team can get a result at Oriel Park. Speaking after Saturday night’s game, Barrett stated;
“Of course I do (think Limerick can get a result). As I keep saying, there is no point in going out if you don’t think you’re going to get a result.”
With the challenge of playing three games in seven days with such a small and young squad, it will test the mental strength of the Limerick team. Barrett suggested that some players may be given a rest for fresh legs on Tuesday night;
“Yeah we will have to see who can play. Three games in a week is a lot because we have Rovers (Shamrock) on Saturday and they have an extra days break as well. At this time of the season that does matter. Maybe if it was halfway through the season it might be different but the lads are still getting used to 90 minutes as we only had four pre-season friendlies and a lot of lads didn’t get 90 minutes.”
Although it is a tough challenge, Barrett says he will not be afraid to introduce a couple of his young players if it is required;
“We won’t be afraid to use the younger players in our squad either. Obviously you don’t want to be using six or seven of them at the same time but if we have to put in one or two we will.”
Striker Mark O’Sullivan has worked extremely hard in his first two appearances for the club and the former Cork man may well drop out for the returning Conor Ellis. Limerick signed defensive midfielder Barry Maguire before the Bohemians game on Saturday evening but the club are awaiting international clearance for the former Utrecht player which is not expected to be ratified until early next week at the earliest. Furthermore, striker Josh McGowan arrives after spending pre-season with Dundalk. Both players have been training with the club for the last week and have impressed the management team sufficiently to earn a contract.
One big positive for Limerick is the quality of the team’s defending thus far. From Brendan Clarke right through to the attacking players, the Shannonsiders have worked tirelessly to prevent opposition attacks. Although Bohemians enjoyed dominance on the flanks at times, Tony Whitehead and Darren Dennehy in particular, dealt with any crosses in to the box until the second phase of the long throw which lead to the equaliser. Although it must be said, the goal has been hotly disputed as Rob Cornwall appeared to be in an offside position when flicking the ball into Stokes path.
The back four retreated very early after gaining the lead and this caused an onslaught of crosses from Bohemians, which improved once the underperforming Paddy Kavanagh was removed in place of Karl Moore. Against Dundalk, Limerick will aim to replicate the Sligo Rovers away performance and concentration levels will have to be exceptionally high. The midfield of Eoin Wearen and Cian Coleman will have massive jobs to do in containing the lively Robbie Benson.
Also, Daniel Kearns will be asked to marshal to attacking prowess of opposition right-back Sean Gannon which could curtail his attacking influence. However, Kearns managed to start the move to create the goal on Saturday night and Limerick have shown that they are dangerous on the counter attack. Another positive for the club is the contribution made by Shane Duggan so far. There is no doubt that the Limerick captain struggled to become involved in the first half on Saturday but the midfielder has assisted both goals so far this season.
At the risk of becoming repetitive, Limerick must compete ferociously at set-piece time in Oriel Park. When the sides met at the venue in August, the Neil McDonald led Limerick were appalling at defending set-pieces as Dundalk won 3-0, profiting from two goals from corner kicks. To stand any chance of gaining a positive result in the home of the former champions, allowing the concession of sloppy goals will not be acceptable.
Dundalk have collected two points from their opening two games which will certainly frustrate Stephen Kenny and his players, especially considering Cork City are now four points clear. The Rebels created a huge gap in the early stages of last season which Dundalk failed to close significantly despite improving drastically in the second part of 2017.
The Lilywhites have had no problem keeping the ball out of goalkeeper Gary Rogers net so far. However, it is in the attacking third where Dundalk have struggled. Robbie Benson missed three glorious chances against Bray on the opening day and Kenny bemoaned the fact that his side have failed to capitalise on good performances due to this deficiency. When speaking to the club’s official website after the Shamrock Rovers game, Kenny said;
“It was a good performance against Shamrock Rovers on Friday night. We just didn’t take our chances on the night. We created a few chances and were unlucky not to win. We have to get ourselves back on track on Tuesday night. We are back at home to Limerick and have to raise it again. We have to raise our level and hopefully get the victory.”
The Dubliner will be hoping that one of his new recruits, Patrick Hoban or Ronan Murray will be able to score consistently and follow in the footsteps of the departed Dave McMillan who managed the feat for three seasons. Murray enjoyed success against Limerick with Galway United last season as he scored in two of the three league meetings between the sides.
Dundalk will be without club captain Stephen O’Donnell and long serving player John Moutney for the visit of Limerick. Stephen Kenny will be able to choose centre-back Sean Hoare who has returned from injury.
Limerick vs Dundalk in 2017:
10 March 2017: Dundalk 1-0 Limerick
19 May 2017: Limerick 0-3 Dundalk
4 August 2017: Dundalk 3-0 Limerick
Referee: Paul Tuite