New Limerick boss Neil McDonald wants his side to lay down a marker against defending Premier League champions Dundalk at the Markets Field tonight.
McDonald has signed a contract with the Shannonsiders until the end of the 2019 season and yesterday afternoon took charge of his first training session.
Looking ahead to tonight’s visit of the Lilywhites, he said: “It will give me an idea of what the league is all about. It’s a great start, to try and put down a marker straight away.”
The Tyneside native was speaking at a press conference at the Markets Field to mark his unveiling as the successor to caretaker boss Willie Boland and former manager Martin Russell.
McDonald, who worked with one-time Limerick and England manager Sam Allardyce at Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers, said the current Crystal Palace manager still holds Limerick “close to his heart”.
As a manager in his own right, McDonald has had spells in charge at Carlisle United, Swedish club Ostersunds, and, most recently, Blackpool.
As a right-back and midfielder, his playing career took him from Newcastle United to Everton, Oldham Athletic, and Preston and he was also capped at youth and U21 level for England.
McDonald revealed that he will be bringing in an as yet unnamed assistant from England in his new role at the Markets Field.
“The wheels are in motion,” he said. “I’m not in a position to tell you who that is at the moment. Hopefully, in a short space of time, he can come across.
“I’m going to take the players this afternoon in a training session alongside Willie (Boland) and the rest of the staff. So I’ll be leaning on him (Boland) to start off with. We have two games in quick succession which is great.”
After tonight’s visit of Dundalk, Limerick are on the road on Tuesday when they will face Bohemians at Dalymount Park as the Shannonsiders seek to improve their current mid-table position in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division.
However, it’s already clear that the club’s ambitions are not confined to the domestic arena.
Limerick chairman Pat O’Sullivan, who revealed that they had 35 applications for the managerial position and only finished interviewing last Monday, said the club’s ultimate target is qualification for Europe. McDonald reckons it can be done.
“I don’t see why not. Putting a team together, putting my stamp on a team to make sure they’re winning games. The aim (qualifying for Europe) is certainly achievable.
“There’s a great buzz about the place. The people that run this place are so passionate and it certainly rubs off on me. I’m very impressed with what the club is trying to do and how it is trying to progress.
“I want to be part of that and that’s why I’ve committed myself to a long-term project. I think the level they are trying to get to is certainly achievable and hopefully, I can deliver. My main job is to win football games.”
Dundalk, Limerick’s opponents tonight, got back to doing just that last time out in the league, recording an emphatic 4-0 win over Sligo Rovers at Oriel Park, thanks to a hat-trick from Jamie McGrath and a goal by Niclas Vemmelund.
“We showed that ruthlessness that we have been missing and we want to continue that,” said defender Sean Hoare.
“We haven’t been scoring the chances that we had been creating this season, which has been our biggest issue.
“We went on to score the four goals last week which was very important. When we have been winning we haven’t been cut-throat enough to go and get more.
“That is what this team have been good at over the last few years. It’s how they have been so successful — going on and killing the game off. We need to do more of that now.”
Looking ahead to tonight’s game, Hoare said: “Limerick are a good side and it won’t be easy down there in Markets Field. It’s going to be a difficult test for us, we know that but we put in a good performance last week and hopefully we can take that form into this week.”
Meanwhile, as unbeaten leaders Cork City host Drogheda United at Turner’s Cross tonight, second-placed Bray Wanderers welcome Bohemians to the Carlisle Grounds. Elsewhere in the Premier Division, it’s Derry City v Shamrock Rovers, Galway United v Finn Harps, and St Pat’s v Sligo Rovers.
In the First Division, UCD host Cobh Ramblers, Waterford are at home to Longford and, with an 8pm kick off, Wexford welcome Shelbourne to Ferrycarrig Park.
All tonight’s other league games kick off at 7.45pm.
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