Limerick FC travel to Bray on Friday night to take on one of the first division favourites Bray Wanderers at the Carlisle Grounds (7.45).
It will be a tough assignment for the Shannonsiders following last week’s hard fought 0-0 draw with Longford Town at the Markets Field. A clean sheet was the most pleasing aspect of the performance for Tommy Barrett.
Bray Wanderers are clear favourites for the game on Friday night and like last weeks opponents Longford, have been tipped to challenge for promotion this year.
Unlike Limerick, the Seagulls have had a non-eventful pre-season and managed to recruit a number of household names by first division standards. The likes of Paul Keegan, Dylan Barnett, Dylan McGlade and former Limerick player Killian Cantwell have all signed.
As well as that, manager Gary Cronin has managed to hold on to centre backs Sean Heaney and Hugh Douglas and recently acquired the services of Waterford player Dean O’Halloran on loan for the season.
Wanderers impressed in pre-season and began the league campaign with a 0-3 away victory over Cabinteely with McGlade grabbing two goals and O’Halloran netting the other. It will be another tough battle in midfield for Limerick as Phillip Gannon and Paul Keegan are two tenacious competitors.
However, Darren Murphy will play a similar role for Limerick and with the hard working Jason Hughes next to him, the visitors will be hoping to limit the space for the aforementioned Bray pair to work in. It will be interesting to see whether Barrett affords more game time to Sean McSweeney. The possible return of Will Fitzgerald could allow either Shane Tracy or Sean Russell to move into midfield.
Goalkeeper Gabriel Sava is a solid addition to the Carlisle Grounds from Dundalk. It is likely that Bray will line up with a defence of Luke Nolan, Killian Cantwell, Sean Heaney and Dylan Barnett.
Barnett will be a real threat on the left and started many games for high flying Waterford last season. His arrival came in a straight swap deal with Kevin Lynch going the other way.
With O’Halloran and McGlade occupying the wings, full-backs Shaun Kelly and Shane Tracy will have to be alert. Both players are a threat with the ball at their feet and possess great dribbling ability while also being dangerous with balls over the top of defence.
Despite the many threats that the home side possess, Limerick showed that they can provide problems of their own with the likes of Karl O’Sullivan and Conor Ellis among their ranks.
For all his attributes, Cantwell was caught out positionally at times for the Super Blues last season as was Heaney for Bray. It is certainly an area that can be targeted by Barrett.
Perhaps it is off the field more than on it where Limerick can learn from Bray. Both clubs had off-field troubles last season but one has bounced back quicker than the other.
It is true that Limerick have secured Daly Car Sales as the new shirt sponsor but despite reports to the contrary, a possible takeover is far from complete, as the spokesperson for the private investment group Donal Magee has been quick to stress. A gentleman’s agreement is in place between current owner Pat O’Sullivan and the private investors but this could all change.
Since Bray appointed St. Joseph’s Boys chairman Niall O’Driscoll as the club’s chairman, a number of new initiatives have been launched to include the community including sponsorship schemes such as senior player/staff sponsorship and programme advertising.
Also, Bray have appointed a disability access officer and launched a ‘Football is for all’ campaign last week in an attempt to upgrade facilities for disabled access. Furthermore, Bray have delved into primary schools to offer free season tickets to children once you are accompanied by an adult.
We have seen similar schemes from Waterford FC which have taken off in the last two seasons and it has worked wonders in the volume of support secured. Although having a winning team always helps and it will help Bray this season, it is hoped that similar progress can be seen on Shannonside sooner rather than later.