Limerick FC face a crucial SSE Airtricity League Premier Division fixture at the Markets Field this Friday night, 7.45pm
LIMERICK FC manager Tommy Barrett admits there is ‘no point in beating around the bush about it’ when it comes to Limerick’s SSE Airtricity League Premier Division clash with Sligo Rovers at the Markets Field on Friday night, 7.45pm, – it’s win or start preparing for another relegation playoff.
Blues boss Barrett has challenged his players to go and get three points, which would move them to within two of their eighth-placed opponents with seven games remaining.
Anything less, he says, means the best they can hope for is a dreaded playoff, where ghosts of 2015 still remain when Limerick lost out to Finn Harps over two legs to lose their Premier Division status.
In their last home outing Limerick beat high-flying Waterford with a late Shane Duggan screamer which heightened hopes ahead of their trip to Bohemians a week later.
However, a 5-0 hammering at Dalymount Park leaves the Gypsies almost out of reach, and Sligo not far from that point.
If they are to close the gap now, Barrett’s side will have to end a near five-year wait for three consecutive top-flight wins on home soil.
The club has not achieved that sequence since September/October 2013 when Stuart Taylor was in charge.
But back-to-back victories over Bray Wanderers and Waterford now present them with that opportunity, and the manager knows his players must change history and, ultimately, the course of their season.
“We need to win. It is as simple as that. There is no point in beating around the bush about it. If we are realistic about getting out of the playoff place, then we need three points here,” Barrett wrote in his programme notes in the Limerick FC Matchday Magazine.
“Sligo are probably not doing as well as they should be with the budget that they have; with the players that they have and even the players they have on the bench. They have a good squad. They have signed players, experienced players, that we could not afford in a million years.
“They have experience all over the pitch. It will be a really difficult game for us, but we have to go for it. We have had three close meetings already this season and I don’t expect this one to be any different.
“Hopefully, the supporters will come out and get behind us. The vocal backing makes a significant difference to the players. I always say it but when there is a good positive atmosphere around the Markets Field it really drives the team on, and we need that now more than ever.”
While Limerick have won two on the bounce at home, they have lost four-in-a-row on the road which has hurt their progress in the league.
Last weekend, they did make it through to the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup last-16 with a 2-0 win at Ulster Senior League champions Cockhill Celtic in Donegal after second-half goals from Killian Brouder and Barry Maguire.
Sligo have won four of their last six Premier Division away fixtures, twice at Derry and once at Saint Patrick’s Athletic and Bohemians. In between, they lost at Bray Wanderers and Shamrock Rovers.
In the three meetings between these teams so far this season the points have been shared, with a win apiece and a draw.
Limerick won 1-0 on the opening day of the campaign at The Showgrounds thanks to Darren Dennehy’s second-half header, before Sligo took a 2-1 win away from the Markets Field in controversial circumstances in April where Rhys McCabe opened the scoring from a free-kick where the ball was rolling.
The latest encounter, back in Sligo in May, ended scoreless.
Limerick manager Tommy Barrett has some defensive headaches for Friday night’s crucial game. Kilian Cantwell (groin) is doubtful while Eoin Wearen continues to mind a knee injury.
Centre-half Colman Kennedy now serves his automatic one-game league ban. Kyle McFadden-Callan and David Cawley are suspended for Sligo.