Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
Lorcan Doherty/INPHO Finn Harps' Paddy McCourt celebrates scoring with teammates against Limerick on Monday.
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Limerick aiming to spoil Paddy McCourt's last game in professional football
Tommy Barrett’s side trail Finn Harps 1-0 from Monday’s relegation-promotion play-off first leg.

THE PROMOTION-RELEGATION play-0ff remains in the balance ahead of tonight’s second leg at Markets Field (7.45pm kick-off).

Finn Harps lead Limerick 1-0 following Monday’s initial encounter thanks to a Paddy McCourt penality, but Tommy Barrett’s side will still be hopeful of retaining their spot in the Premier Division as they hold home advantage this evening.

Ex-Celtic player McCourt, whose 36th-minute spot kick at Finn Park separates the sides, plays his last game in professional football this evening before moving on to a new role as head of youth structures at Derry City.

The 34-year-old will be hoping to end his career on a high by helping Finn Harps return to the top flight at the first attempt, with Ollie Horgan’s men relegated last year.

The two sides met previously in a play-off as recently as 2015, with a famous BJ Banda extra-time winner the difference on that occasion, but Limerick are determined to ensure a different outcome this time around.

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Speaking on Tuesday, Barrett said his side needed to be more creative as they seek to overturn Monday’s deficit. 

“It was disappointing [on Monday],” he told Limerick’s official website. “I thought we played well. We had plenty of possession and created the majority of the chances.

“We should have created more with the amount of ball that we had, but it’s really difficult, because Harps are a good team. They’re well organised and very solid defensively. They look to counter-attack and they counter-attack very well — you have to be careful not to leave yourself open too.”

Despite Finn Harps being expected to sit back and soak up pressure, Barrett suggested he would likely resist the temptation of reverting to two up front for this evening’s encounter.

Speaking to the club’s official website, he said: “With the narrow three they have, at times it’s five at the back, I’m not sure about two up top — we’re not a really direct team. We need to play and we need to play through the thirds.

“If we go two up top, are you putting more balls in the box? You probably are. Are you going longer? You probably are. That’s not the way we play, really. We look to get the ball down, play through the thirds and see can we get our clever midfielders on it like Barry Maguire and Shane Duggan, and create things that way. We’ll probably have to stick to our formation.

“In saying that, I played a 4-4-2 against Waterford — I know we lost 4-1 — and I played different formations this year to suit. It depends who is available — we have a few injuries as well.”

Limerick goalkeeper Tommy Holland, who was stretchered off on Monday with an ankle injury, and experienced winger Billy Dennehy (hand) are both doubtful for this evening’s game.

Barrett also hinted that 19-year-old wingers Karl O’Sullivan and Will Fitzgerald, who both were involved in the first leg, may be left out for tonight’s game in favour of more experienced players.

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Meanwhile, Finn Harps boss Ollie Horgan has insisted his side must not get too fixated on preserving their advantage from the first leg.

We have to be positive from the start tomorrow night as a 1-0 lead won’t be enough for us to come out on top over the two legs unless Limerick are completely off their game. I don’t expect that to happen. Tommy Barrett and his players will be quite confident that they can turn it around in their favour.”

Horgan added that his side were fortunate to get the win on Monday, with a high level of performance likely to be needed in order to secure another positive result tonight.

“Look, it’s all to play for, but we really have to peak tomorrow night at the Markets Field and hope that Limerick don’t produce their best form, because if they do, we could be in big trouble.

“The likes of Barry Maguire and Shane Duggan showed their quality at Finn Park. Limerick’s ball control, passing and movement was very good and we really struggled against them. There is no doubt about it that we were very lucky to get the win.”

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