A long winter comes to an end for both Longford Town and Limerick on Friday evening, when the midlands club visit a Limerick side looking to steady the ship following their disappointing relegation in 2018.
While Tommy Barrett lost a number of players in the off-season, he has added a number of familiar faces, with the club offering deals to local talent and shifting away from the heavy investment in talent from around the country and abroad. Returning to the club are Sean Russell, Sean McSweeney, Kieran Hanlon and Jason Hughes, all players who Barrett will know well.
The objective of the season is clearly to sustain and slowly grow the club and improve the young players within the club. Barrett will know that promotion isn’t a realistic goal, with the strength that Friday’s opposition, as well as Shelbourne, Drogheda United and Bray Wanderers, far exceeding what the Moyross native has at his disposal.
Nevertheless, Barrett was able to secure some good results last season and Limerick did start the season brightly, taking seven points from their opening three games. This time around, Barrett has had a different pre-season, but on the whole, he’ll be happy that his small squad appears to have come through unscathed. Darren Murphy and Shane Tracy haven’t played much football with Limerick in pre-season but expect the experienced pair to start for the Blues.
Neal Fenn has been widely praised for his sides possession based style, which saw his side score more goals that everybody, except champions UCD.
Ultimately the Town narrowly missed out on the play-off places and subsequently face a third consecutive season in the second tier. Some friendly results have been positive, securing a come-from-behind draw at Oriel Park against Dundalk, as well as seeing off Cork City. Defeats to Bohemians, Sligo Rovers and Cliftonville may not help confidence, but Fenn will know that such results will mean little if his side can secure a win in Limerick.
After losing top scorer Dylan McGlade, to Bray Wanderers, in the off season the blow was softened by the signature of Aaron Dobbs. Twenty-year-old Dobbs notched seven league goals in 15 appearances for a struggling Wexford side last season. Meanwhile, Conor Kenna, 34, adds significant experience in defence.
Carlton Ubaezuonu will have to wait for his Longford debut, as he misses the game.
Referee: Jason Mannix
These sides last met competitively in 2015, when they shared a 3-3 draw. The game was Longford’s sole visit to Markets Field since it reopened earlier that summer.
Paul O’Conor won the First Division in 2016, having been relegated with the club in 2015. The midfielder scored 17 times in 30 months with the club.
Limerick last lost a home first division game in October 2012, falling 3-1 to Wexford Youths at Jackman Park.
Limerick ; Draw 11/5; Longford Town 11/10.
Limerick 1-2 Longford Town
Injured: Carlton Ubaezuonu