Lee J Lynch, of Limerick FC, right, in action against St Patrick's Athletic at the Markets Field earlier this season
LIMERICK FC manager Neil McDonald is reluctant to hazard a guess as to how many points the ‘Blues’ require from their final four games in order to secure their SSE Airtricity League Premier Division place for next season.
Limerick’s hopes of reaching an FAI Cup final for the first time since 1982 ended with a frustrating 1-0 defeat to high-flying Cork City at Turners Cross on Friday night.
The Shannonsiders, appearing in their first FAI Cup semi-final in 23 years, came within a whisker of taking the game to a replay at the Markets Field, but crucially the Blues paid the ultimate price for a lack of clinical edge in front of goal.
Now the Limerick focus switches back to the league and this Saturday’s crucial SSE Airtricity League Premier Division fixture with St Patrick’s Athletic at Richmond Park.
Limerick currently sit in seventh place in the Premier Division table, four points clear of the relegation zone. There are now just four series of fixtures to go in the Premier Division season.
The fact Limerick FC’s goal difference is five better off than Sligo Rovers, who occupy one of the relegation places, could also prove significant before the season is out.
Following confirmation of Drogheda United’s relegation on Friday night last with their defeat to Derry City, in effect any two of five clubs from seventh-placed Limerick down to Finn Harps in 11th are involved in the relegation battle.
The five sides are separated by just five points with four series of games to go.
Asked how many points from a possible 12 Limerick would need to take to ensure their Premier Division survival for next season, manager McDonald said: "I am trying to refrain from answering that question. We are aiming for three on Saturday, we would take a point now to be fair.
“It all depends on what everyone else does, but we have to look after ourselves.
"The four games that we have got left, there is enough in us in the teams that we are playing against to get enough points to stay up. Whether that is one point, three points, four points or whatever it is, I'm sure we can get those points and make sure that we are in the Premier Division next season.
"We have 35 points at the moment. We have two games at home. Those two games are certainly winnable. The away games are very, very difficult, not nothing that we should be afraid of, especially with the form we are in.
"We could have done with a bit of luck against Cork on Friday night to be fair. After the first 15 minutes when they could have scored a couple more goals, we settled down and passed the ball much better, we moved into the spare man into space and got at the Cork defence.
"In the past it has been an easy game for Cork, but they certainly had a difficult two games against us, one in the league and one in the Cup.
“That shows where we are trying to get to and how they've adapted and how they have grown over the past month or so in my opinion.
"We are in decent form and that decent form hopefully has to go into the St Pat's game as well."
McDonald is confident that any lingering disappointment the players may have felt with their narrow FAI Cup semi-final loss to Cork City on Friday night will have disappeared by kick-off time at Inchicore on Saturday.
Speaking this Tuesday Blues boss McDonald said: "We are hugely disappointed not to be in the final of the FAI Cup or to have forced a draw, but we do take confidence from the display going into the last four league games where I think our form is decent in everything that we are doing, both offensively and defensively.
"The players have to move on, park their disappointment and I think they can. The indications that we have early in the week suggests that they have done so.
“They are in good spirits and know they are in good form and they have stepped up to the plate whenever they have needed to get a couple of good results to help push us up that league and I think that is all we need. Good performance gets you out of that, give everything that you can. ask lots of questions of St Pat's to see if they can handle pressure. It is a pressure for both teams.
"Winning games gives you confidence. Out of the last eight games we have won a fair few ourselves, whether it be in the Cup or the league and I think that has transmitted to the form in the league with the Cup run that we have had which is great.”
Following Saturday's game, Limerick have home fixtures against Drogheda Utd and Galway Utd before a trip to Tallaght to face Shamrock Rovers on the final night of the regular season.