Defend first is the order of the day for Limerick FC
As a turbulent season both on and off the pitch for Limerick FC comes to a close with two games against Finn Harps, this week decide the short and long term future of the club.
Remaining in the Premier Division will, of course, make the club a more appealing proposition to perspective investors and players which is a must if the club is to move forward. Relegation to the graveyard that is the First Division, that prior to the bounce back promotion in 2016, proved to be a place the club found very difficult to navigate an escape from is not where anybody wants our senior side to be.
In Olly Horgan, Finn Harps have a manager who is well used to being in trenches of League Of Ireland football and is known throughout the game for having his teams well prepared, organised and ready to do battle with any opponent.
On this occasion Olly will smell blood from the wounded animal that is Tommy Barrett’s young side. Harps, unbeaten since June, with the exception of a cup defeat to league champions Dundalk, will be hoping to put the tie beyond Limerick on Monday Night by scoring two or more goals at home. Harps know that the Shannonsiders have struggled to score goals all season, managing a total of twenty five goals in their thirty six league games and with momentum on their side Harps are favourites going into this crucial decider.
The Limerick manager's tactical approach and game management skills will most certainly be tested by he’s more experienced counterpart but I believe that Limerick have the option of frustrating their opponents in the away leg and if a draw could be secured could pull off what no one believed possible at the beginning of the season and remain in the top flight.
A 'park the bus' approach, for the want of a better description, would be a suggested game plan with a back four of Kelly, Cantwell, Brouder and Treacy in front of Tommy Holland. They would play behind a five man midfield of Murphy, Duggan, Coleman, Dennehy and Karl O’Sullivan with Danny Morrissey ploughing a lone furrow up front attempting to occupy the Harps rear guard and convert any opportunity that falls his way.
A 'defend first' approach to the game, with a clean sheet being the number one priority is the order of the day. Limerick need to limit the opposition’s set piece threat by focusing on not conceding corners or indeed free kicks in dangerous areas and generally frustrating the opposition at every opportunity by getting everyone behind the ball when out of possession and not allowing the opposition to exert sustained periods of pressure.
Barrett's side need to use Karl O’Sullivan's pace as the focal point of transition from defence to attack and utilising that threat to provide an outlet for the team and also a rest opportunity for the back four. Limerick’s offensive set plays will never be as important as in these games, when approaching the game defensively sometimes the best chance of scoring a goal is through a set play.
Some might raise an eyebrow with Barry Maguire’s omission from my team to line out for the away leg in Ballyboffey and it is most unlikely that he will not be in Barrett’s first eleven as the young manager has placed a lot of faith in his top scorer. But is the technical approach that the former Dutch international brings to the side what is required on a pitch known for being heavy and not the place for free flowing football?
In my opinion it’s a beat Olly at his own game approach that could be the recipe to keep this tie alive and generate the support of the Blue army to be the twelfth man in the return leg at the Markets Field stadium on Friday next.