THE GAME HAS BEEN MOVED TO THE ASTRO PITCH IN UL DUE TO THE BAD WEATHER!
Limerick Under-19 manager Tommy Barrett says his players can use their Markets Field experience as an incentive to reach first-team level, as they prepare to step out on the famous turf in their National League semi-final against Saint Patrick’s Athletic on Saturday evening (kick-off 6.30pm).
The young Shannonsiders face the most difficult task possible at this level when they tackle the reigning Champions who are unbeaten in 13 outings this season, winning 11 of those while keeping nine clean-sheets.
Limerick, for their part, have had a mixed season but finished off well with four wins in their last five league games. They then squeezed through last weekend’s dramatic quarter-final in Sligo which ended 5-5 after extra-time before they won 5-4 on penalties.
Barrett’s side have kept just one clean-sheet in their last eight outings but the boss is hoping that they can tighten up in that department, as they aim to avenge their defeat by St. Pat’s in last season’s semi-final on Shannonside.
And the former Limerick captain is delighted that they will be lining out at the Markets Field, which reopened to football last June for the first time since 1984, with an extra incentive of a home final should they progress past this challenge.
“It’s great to be playing the game at the Markets Field,” Barrett told LimerickFC.ie. “It gives the players a taste of senior level, really. It gives them an experience of what it can be like and what they can aim for. You can’t forget that fact; that’s why we’re here – to get lads into the first team.
“Two of the lads that are ruled out (Paudie O’Connor & Val Feeney – both suspended) have already played there but most of the other lads haven’t. It will be a good experience for them.
“We’ll play our normal game. We play an expansive game. I think Pat’s do as well, in fairness to them, it’s just that they’re very good defensively as well. On our day, we’re very good defensively too.
“It’s just this season we probably hadn’t got the lads together as much as we wanted to. We need to work on that more. We’ve had them together a couple of times this week and hopefully we’ll get that right for Saturday.”
While St. Pat’s qualified for the Champions Knockout Phase by topping Section Two, Limerick made it through from Section One as one of the two best third-place finishers.
But Barrett can be encouraged by the fact that the top two from their section, Cork City and UCD, face-off in the other semi-final, although he admits the Saints are most likely “red-hot favourites” to progress.
“St. Pat’s play very good football, similar to their first team,” Tommy said. “They were the best team in their group by a country mile. They’ve only conceded five goals.
“They’ll be red-hot favourites going into it but we’ll try our best, do our best and hopefully come out the right side.
“Last season, St. Pat’s beat us in the semi-final and if you look at the result you see 3-0. But we had chances before they scored and if we had scored first that day we would have won the game. Whoever scored first was going to win it.
“It could be something similar on Saturday. Obviously, we’re missing two of our more experienced players, but we have a good squad and we always use the squad – the lads that come in do well.”
Limerick must contend without suspended duo, captain Paudie O’Connor and vice-captain Val Feeney, who were dismissed in last Saturday’s last-eight win in Sligo. They have also been handed additional one-match bans, ruling them out should the Blues progress to the decider.
These teams also met at this stage last term where the Saints ran out 3-0 winners at Hogan Park on 19 April, although it was a close encounter up until quick-fire goals either side of the hour mark.
A complete guide to each team’s road to this season’s final four can be seen here.
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Preview Date: Friday 4 December 2015