Dundalk go into this FAI Cup last 16 tie against Limerick FC in scintillating form as they sit second in the Airtricity League table with four consecutive wins behind them, the most recent coming against reigning champions Sligo Rovers.
A win tonight and it will be five consecutive wins in all competitions for Dundalk for the first time since 2006. Other results last week meant that the nine-times League winners tightened their grip on second place and now sit only a point behind current leaders, St Patrick's Athletic.
Manager Stephen Kenny will be hoping that the Lilywhites can continue their recent run of form in this tie and keep their chances of a league and cup double alive. "We have gained a lot of momentum in recent months," he said. "We are on a great run and the work ethic of the players has been exceptional. Our home form has been excellent lately and we want to continue that. We want to progress through this round of the cup."
The Louth side reached the semi-finals of this competition last year but have failed to beat Limerick in both of their league clashes this season. In April the Blues came away from Oriel Park with a hard fought 2-2 draw before coming from two goals down to beat the Lilywhites 3-2 in Thomond Park in June.
Dundalk defeated non-league side Phoenix 4-0 in the second round of the cup back in May with goals coming courtesy of Pat Hoban, Kurtis Byrne and Tiarnan Mulvenna. For this round the home side will be without the injured Keith Ward, who is recovering from a cruciate knee injury, while John Mountney is also likely to miss out due to an ankle ligament problem.
Limerick will be considered the underdogs in this FAI Cup tie this evening as they come up against a strong Dundalk side who are looking to make it five consecutive victories in all competitions. The Blues will seek confidence however in the fact that they have not lost to Dundalk this season and have only succumbed to them once in their last nine meetings - with a record like that they could be considered Dundalk's bogey team, perhaps.
Stuart Taylor’s men enter the tie on the back of successive defeats by Drogheda United and UCD, where they have shipped six goals, and fallen to eighth in the table.
But their league form can be put to one side for this weekend as they look to advance to the last eight of a competition that the club has not won in 31 years, with Taylor saying his players are relishing their latest test.
“We’re going into the Cup game and it has given us a little bit of a sparkle in training knowing that there’s a Cup tie edge to it,” he said, “But for me, we’re going to have a cup tie edge in every single league game we play between now and the end of the season. It’s something I always try to have in them anyway. Don’t get me wrong, they’re only human beings and they can’t have a cup tie edge every single time they play. But it’s important that I get as much out of them as I can.
“We’re looking forward to Friday night’s game. We’ve scored five goals against Dundalk in two games but we’ve lost four goals against them."
Limerick also overcame non-league opponents to reach this stage of the competition, beating Glenville 3-0 in June thanks to a Rory Gaffney brace and another Stephen Bradley goal.
The Munster side will be without Pat Purcell, Brian O'Callaghan, Jeffrey Judge and Stephen McGann this week as they recover from long-term injuries. Shane Tracy is also absent after undergoing an operation on Tuesday. Meanwhile Craig Curran and Patrick Nzuzi will both miss out due to suspension.
Referee: Anthony Buttimer.
It has been 33 years since Limerick last defeated Dundalk in the cup - that 1-0 victory coming in March 1980.
Limerick are unbeaten in their last five visits to Oriel Park, winning three and drawing the other two ties.
Out of the current Dundalk squad Peter Cherrie has made the most FAI Cup appearances with 12 while there could be as many as seven Dundalk players to make their cup debuts this on Friday.
Dundalk 8/13; Draw 5/2; Limerick 5/1.
3-1 home win.
Injured: Keith Ward.
Doubtful: John Mountney.
Injured: Pat Purcell, Brian O'Callaghan, Jeffrey Judge, Stephen McGann and Shane Tracy.
Suspended: Craig Curran and Patrick Nzuzi.