PLAYER VIEW: CORK IN FOLAN’S SIGHTS AS BOHS VISIT
Limerick defender Stephen Folan is keen to catch Cork City and secure a top-half finish in their first season back in the big time, with the Superblues camp in confident mood ahead of Monday’s visit of Bohemians to Thomond Park (kick-off 7.45pm).
Stuart Taylor’s men have put impressive back-to-back wins together against Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk over the past week, and if they make it three on the bounce they could jump back to sixth as Cork travel to Sligo Rovers on the same night.
Folan has admitted that the difficult schedule of three games in six days that Limerick have been faced with is a “little bit of a challenge”, but with the right preparation the 21-year-old centre-half says they should be in fine shape for their latest task.
Bohs too come into the game in form having beaten Shelbourne and Derry City, scoring five goals without reply, and the former Newcastle United youngster feels that the Gypsies will be well motivated after the teams’ two meetings so far this year.
Both of those ended in the narrowest of victories for Limerick, but while Bohs will be keen to create more breathing space at the bottom, the hosts have targets of their own, including building on their recent solid defensive performances.
“I’m expecting a tough game; Bohemians are coming into the game off the back of a fantastic result against Derry,” Folan, whose side stunned title-chasing Dundalk at Oriel Park on Friday night, told LimerickFC.ie.
“They’re going to be at it, like any team in this league, and I think any team in the league can beat anyone if they’re on their mettle.
“They have a lot of young players. We beat them 2-1 at home at the start of the season. Some people may think it should have been a draw. When we played them up there, some people were saying that the goal was a handball.
“So they’ll definitely feel that they want to get one over on us. It will be a difficult game but I don’t think it will be anything that we haven’t faced this season.
“At this stage of the season, and with the amount of games I’ve played personally, three games in six days is a little bit of a challenge.
“You just have to eat the right food and do the right things between Friday and Monday, get the body right and we should be fine.
“It would be fantastic to make it three wins from three and hopefully close the gap on Cork. You want to be finishing ahead of your rivals no matter what.
“If we can get level with them on points and then carry on our form, hopefully we can finish in sixth and get as close to fifth as possible – that’s the plan.”
Reflecting on their victory in Dundalk – where Rory Gaffney’s first-half brace as good as killed off the title dreams of Stephen Kenny’s men – Folan said: “It was great to get the win but the way we went about it and how we won it was the most important thing.
“There have been times this season where we’ve went ahead and ended up losing or drawing, so I think it shows the character of the boys now compared to the start of the year when we were dropping points that we should have won.
“I was happy with Friday’s performance. In the first half, we played a lot more ball and we were on the ascendancy and pressuring them. I don’t think they had a shot on target.
“That shows how much we have improved over the last couple of weeks compared to when we played them in the Cup last month when it was 5-3. It’s little steps at a time and now we’ve got a structured back four it obviously helps.”
Limerick had also led 2-0 at Oriel Park back in April but came away with just a point after a late fight-back from the Lilywhites.
But when asked if that result was on his mind during the game, Folan stated: “It’s not that it’s in your head – football’s mad in that you switch off and you don’t really remember it. You’re just in the moment.
“At half-time when we were 2-0 up and in the changing room, you might have someone say ‘we have this won, we just have to do this’. But in my head we hadn’t got it won because there are still 45 minutes and anything can happen.
“I went out with the mindset that it was still 0-0, just to make sure you’re on your game and your attitude is right that you don’t want to concede. After the last two games where we kept clean-sheets, that’s what we were aiming for.
“It was disappointing to lose a goal, especially from a penalty. Fair enough if it’s a good goal and they play through you, but when it’s a penalty, it’s frustrating. But the most important thing is that we won.
“Dundalk have got some fantastic footballers. Compared to the last couple of times we played them, I think the difference this time was their midfield weren’t really effective because we had Jason (Hughes), Joe (Gamble) and Bradzer (Stephen Bradley) in there who stopped them playing.
“Everything more or less was into the striker’s feet and everything was in front of us. There were no penetrating passes between the lines or between myself or OJ (Samuel Oji). It was good that we kept a strong line.”
On Monday morning, we’ll hear more from Stephen Folan about life at Limerick and the influence of Samuel Oji, while we also have a feature with 17-year-old centre-back Tony Whitehead.