Limerick manager Martin Russell admits seeing out the SSE Airtricity League First Division season unbeaten is “a motivation”, with the Champions set to continue that quest against Shelbourne at Tolka Park on Friday night (kick-off 7.45pm).
The Shannonsiders return to league action following last weekend’s EA Sports Cup final humbling by Saint Patrick’s Athletic at the Markets Field, the venue where Russell’s side will lift the title trophy in their final home match on 8 October.
Last month they won the league with six games to spare, but they could do it in even more style by becoming the first team since Shamrock Rovers in 1927 to go through a League of Ireland season undefeated, a feat which was achieved twice by the Hoops in 18-game campaigns. And the boss admits that is a driving factor.
“It is a motivation that we will use. We’re still looking to move things on. We’re not going to be happy with the season just petering out. We want to play well to the end of the season,” Russell told LimerickFC.ie.
“I want to see performances, and I’m sure the people that come to watch us want to see performances. Then we can re-evaluate things. We’ll give Shelbourne respect and try to keep our run going.
“Within the group, the players have always stated how important it is to try to go through the season unbeaten. We want to keep our standards high; I think we’ll do that. But we still acknowledge that people want to stop us even doing that.
“In the games that are remaining there will be that sort of competitive edge from the opposition. There are some teams we are playing that are still fighting for playoff places etc. We’ll try to finish off the season in the best possible fashion – they should be competitive games between now and the end of the season.”
Limerick have netted 81 league goals and have an outside chance of hitting the century with five outings still left, although Russell is not concerned by that target.
“I’m delighted with the 100 goals that we have already scored in all competitions. As we have done up to now in the league, and even in the Cup, we’ll try to play as well as we can and let the result take care of itself then,” Martin said.
“In the league we have been playing well, achieving points and scoring goals. That’s what we want to do to the end of the season. The Cups are gone now so the only thing left for us is to finish the season off as strong as possible and play at a level and standard that is trying to be ready for a good attack in the Premier Division.”
While Limerick are on a three-game league-winning run since drawing in Drogheda, Shels saw their three-match unbeaten run – which included wins over Athlone Town and Cabinteely – come to an end with a 2-0 defeat at United Park last Friday. They remain in fifth, well adrift of Cobh Ramblers above them.
These teams have met three times this season with a total of 15 goals scored. Limerick have collected nine points, through 5-1, 4-3 and 2-0 victories. The 4-3 success was at Tolka Park in May where John O’Flynn (2), Chris Mulhall and Lee-J Lynch scored.
Team News: Limerick remain without long-term absentee centre-half Séamus Sharkey (head) and he is now joined on the sidelines by right-back Shaun Kelly (arm) and winger Stephen Kenny (ankle) who both miss out having been forced off in the second half of the EA Sports Cup final.
Young midfielder Val Feeney, who missed out on the decider because he was cup-tied, is available for selection. 19-year-old centre-half Paudie O’Connor picked up his fifth yellow card of the campaign last Saturday and will miss next weekend’s trip to Cobh as a result.
Preview Date: Thursday 22 September 2016