Limerick Football Club: A Profitable Plummet.
The season prior to this of a club that has spent the past few years switching and swapping between Munster’s Thomand Park to the miniature Jackman Park, Limerick have since returned to their old ‘home’ The Markets Field, and have made it a real fortress for grinding out wins in front of what usually is a packed out crowd, has been a year of real ups and downs, but has this past year been a real benefit, rather than an all-time low, for the Super blues?
Let’s recap the past 12 months or so for the Shannonsiders; 21 games into the Airtricity Premier Division without a single win, and it all but looked as if the Lims were to be relegated without a win all season. That was a very different story to what turned out to be an absolutely incredible end to a dramatic season. 6 points gained after 21 and their Premier Division status looked all but gone. On the 1st of August, Limerick gained their first win of the 2015 Airtricity Premier Division after a 3-2 win at the Markets Field over closest rivals Sligo Rovers, with Limerick’s eventual top scorer, Vinny Faherty bagging a brace. This win in front of 980 fans at the Markets Field put a bit of confusion on the faces of the rest of the participants in the league, how did the hopeless Limerick pick up a win in the league? That win against Sligo was followed up with another just one week later against Bohemians in an absolute classic at the Markets Field, with ten man Limerick beating the Dublin club by 4 goals to 3. Two wins on the bounce but it still looked too much for the Blues. 11 points from a possible 15 followed in the next 5 games for the Shannonsiders, and the sweetest of them all came at Turners Cross when Limerick stunned the Premier Division by beating fiercest rivals Cork City 2-3 thanks to a Paudie O’Connor winner. Fast forward to back to back 2-0 home losses to Derry City and Shamrock Rovers, and Limerick’s Premier Division status was dealt a major blow.
“Limerick must now win in Sligo next Friday night and hope that Drogheda United fails to win at Tallaght Stadium – if Drogheda draws and Limerick win, Limerick will be in the playoff on goal difference.”
That was the major story, Limerick needed to win and hope Drogheda fail to win at Tallaght Stadium, what followed, was simply what dreams are made of. 1,652 turned up for a match that had Limerick’s league status on the line. Limerick started incredibly in Sligo; Captain Shane Duggan fired Limerick ahead inside 5 minutes in Sligo. Freddy Hall pulled off the moment of his life by saving a Corcoran penalty and keeping Limerick in front. Paul O’Conor put Limerick 0-2 up in Sligo and Limerick were in dreamland, that was until the away end were broken with the news that Drogheda had taken a shock lead at Tallaght Stadium, and the Limerick fans were full of despair. Sligo pulled one back at the end of the half to make it 1-2 and certainly game on. Before the hour came the decisive moment as Faherty fired in from close range, and with the score in the Shamrock Rovers v Drogheda United match slowly changing in Limerick’s favour, it appeared the wait of 203 days to move off the bottom was finally over. Still, there was time for more drama with Hall saving brilliantly from David Cawley late on, while Ruairí Keating’s injury-time strike meant a nail-biting final few seconds, in which Danny Ledwith almost proved the villain, his strike flying narrowly wide. The final whistle blew, Limerick had climbed off the bottom of the table for the first time in 203 days to avoid automatic relegation and send Drogheda down in a fairy-tale ending to a crazy season. There were flares and jumping fans in the Showgrounds away end, what an ending to a historic turnaround, but it wasn’t over yet.
Finn Harps had beaten UCD to have the chance to play Limerick in the promotion/relegation playoff, and after what had been a turnaround that was never ever experienced by any other side in Airtricity history, Limerick fell victim to a fresh and motivated Finn Harps side, who beat the Shannonsiders 2-1 in Extra-Time over two legs with BJ Banda scoring the all-important goal to send Limerick down. Heartbreak on the faces of Limerick players, their heroics had come to an abrupt end by the impressive Finn Harps.
After such a sickening end to what would’ve been the fairy-tale ending, people questioned what lied next for Limerick FC. Was this playoff loss to spark a decline in the club? Or was this harsh relegation actually what the club needed?
This, to me, was exactly what Limerick needed. They fully deserved to remain in the Premier Division, but the fact they came down may just have sparked the club in the right direction. Losing their three main men; Vinny Faherty, Ian Turner and Dean Clarke, peopled questioned where Limerick’s goals were going to come from. Limerick had a busy transfer window, and an incredible one to say the least.
Aaron Greene (signed from St. Patrick’s Athletic): I’m going to highlight one key player to Limerick’s aims of what they want to achieve, and by signing a player with Greene’s ability to drop down a division to play with the Lims shows what lofty ambitions the club has. This signing is one of huge magnitude, sending out a message to the other First Division clubs. Greene signed along with Seamus Sharkey, John O’Flynn, Chris Mulhall and Stephen Kenny, 5 players with bundles of ability to highlight the finances Limerick have available and what they are willing to do to get back to where they belong.
6 games played and 6 wins to prove what a blistering start Limerick have had to the season, scoring 28 goals and conceding 5 in the process. Goals are coming out of the players necks, that’s how many Limerick are bagging. It’s not just reliant on one key player; it’s throughout the whole squad with almost every player in the squad scoring bar keeper Freddy Hall. Limerick play an open and attacking style of football which is extremely enjoyable to watch and to be fair to them, has worked extremely well this season too. They are pulling out a couple of clean sheets with a class keeper in Bermuda’s Freddy Hall, something they couldn’t get too many of last season.
Overall, the drop for Limerick may have seemed unfair and maybe even robbery, but this drop has already and has the potential to furthermore improve the squad of Limerick, bringing togetherness and fight among the players to get back to where they belong and maintain a status in the Premier Division. This is a learning curve that may just be perfect timing for the Superblues.