Limerick FC – season preview 2015

What a disastrous off-season it’s been for Limerick FC. The announcement from chairman, Pat Sullivan that he will no longer be financially backing the club to the same levels of recent years was followed with the news that the clubs new home, Market Fields would not be ready for the start of the season with no date set on completion.

All of this uncertainty around the Munster club has effected their ability to attract players ahead of the 2015 campaign and as a result, Martin Russell’s side are being tipped across the board to be relegated back to the First Division.

It’s not so long ago that the ”Super Blues” were being tipped for a run at competing on the European stage following their promotion from the Graveyard after 17 years stuck in it.

Stuart Taylor was the man charged with bringing the good times back to Limerick but his cross channel signings failed to settle as the crowds continued to dwindle at Thomond Park. Sullivan clearly felt he wasn’t getting bang for his buck and the appointment of Martin Russell offers a new approach from the previous big spenders.

Former UCD supremo Russell is a manager well used to performing miracles on a non-existent budget having kept the ”Students” in the top flight since promotion under him in 2009.

After a dispute with the club at the end of 2013, Russell moved into a coaching roll with Dublin giants, St.Patrick’s Athletic while UCD AFC were relegated, a clear sign of the former managers influence.

It wasn’t just Russell’s ability to keep UCD in the league that gained him such a highly thought of reputation, it was the style of play his sides stuck with through thick and thin and the number of talented youngsters he brought through the ranks.

Ronan Finn, Paul Corry and Conor Sammon are just three of the star names pulled out of the hat by Russell and he may well find himself praying for similar youth products in Limerick over the next few years, given the current situation at the club.

Last weekends Munster Senior Cup triumph over local rivals and title tipped Cork City does offer ”Lims” fans some hope ahead of their big kick-off on Saturday.

Bohemians are the first visitors back to a Jackman Park venue that has been out of action for the past year or so and a culture shock may be in store for any Premier players who have yet to visit the Munster venue.

The early capture of Paul O’Conor from Sligo Rovers should also give hope to Limerick followers with the former Drogheda United midfielder a player well able to mix his game up with long and short passes as well as goals and big tackles being part of his make up.

Well rounded players such as O’Conor will prove to be vital in avoiding relegation for Limerick but when you look at the squad in place for 2015, O’Conor looks to be a rare exception.

The return of Ian Turner to the ”Super Blues” midfield should give O’Conor a very like minded and high quality partner with the addition of Vinny Faherty giving Limerick more guile going forward.

At the back, Aidan Price’s late arrival at the club comes just in time for the visit of ”Bohs” and his experience will prove vital on the pitch and in the dressing room. However, when you look behind him and then at the other end of the field, you would have to worry for Martin Russell’s side.

Goalkeeper Conor O’Donnell can be a frustrating character given his ability to follow up stunning saves with basic errors and if Limerick are to survive at this level, they can not afford to be giving away ‘free goals’.

Across the back four, Robbie Williams is the only player you could pinpoint as a top performer in the last twelve months with little or no experience to go alongside, bar the exception of Aidan Price. The departure of Sam Oji ,to newly promoted Galway United, may yet turn out to be a fatal blow in the battle for survival come October.

Captain for the new year, Shane Duggan certainly has a bit about him in the midfield while Dean Clarke will be eager to avoid back to back relegations having arrived from UCD.

With Darragh Rainsford also available for selection as a number ten, you do worry about the lack of a defensive midfielder among the Limerick ranks and given Martin Russell’s poor defensive record at UCD, we could see a lot of goals at the wrong end of Jackman Park and/or Market Fields for Limerick.

The UCD Bowl was not unfamiliar with high scoring games during Russell’s tenure but with Vinny Faherty not always a starting player at his last club and Dean Clarke far from a big name within the league, cynics could be forgiven for asking where the goals might come from this season for Limerick.

Should injuries hit this team hard, there looks to be very little strength and depth on the bench for Martin Russell to call upon and that will worry the manager more than anything at this moment in time.

A good start is vital for a club low on confidence even before a ball has been kicked and the home fixtures against Bohemians and Longford Town do offer Limerick a realistic chance for early wins.

With Limerick not expected to compete with the leagues big boys for the foreseeable future, those kind of fixtures against Bohemians, Longford Town, Galway United, Drogheda and Bray will make all the difference whether positive or negative we wait to see.

Predicted finish: 11th (relegation play-off)

Player to watch: Paul O’Conor

Greatest strength: Plenty of classy passers of the ball in the midfield.

Greatest weakness: Look set to leak goals and with a lack of goal scorers, it could prove to be a fatal combination.

The Author

Kieran Burke

While a fan and follower of football from all over the globe, Kieran Burke specialises in all things League of Ireland with opinionated pieces, big name interviews and match previews/reports his bread and butter. Check out his new website www.betweenthestripesblog.wordpress.com

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