The big kick off: Limerick FC’s Blue Army readying themselves for Friday
THERE is excitement in Limerick as the city’s senior soccer team prepares to make its Premier League return this Friday.
After winning the first division by a massive 23 points last season, hopes are high that the Super Blues can firmly establish themselves in Irish soccer’s top division.
They open their campaign at home in the Markets Field, to Sligo Rovers this Friday, kick off 7.45pm.
And it’s hoped that despite the fact Munster are also playing over at Thomond Park on the same night, more than 2,000 soccer fans will pack into the Markets Field.
Ballinacurra Weston man Kevin Kiely, a member of the ‘Blue Army’ supporters club, who follow Limerick across the country, said: “I think people are finally getting a grip on how big it actually is to be in the premier division again. It will be massive.
"I think people realised how big the premier was when we were in the first division last year, and there were no away crowds. There’s not the same buzz.”
Darren Noonan, who hails from Upper Carey’s Road, says Limerick fans have all been inspired by champions Dundalk FC’s run to the Uefa Europa League group stages, and the fact the Lillywhites were competitive in this competition.
“It was a great achievement,” he said, saying he believes Limerick’s loan signing of Sunderland FC full-back Tommy Robson points to a new-found respect for Irish soccer.
“I think players from other leagues like the English championship may decide is they are not getting a break, they may try their luck in Ireland. Hopefully this way, we’ll get good players to our club.”
Ballynanty man Adam ‘Chops’ O’Neill says it is important that Limerick as a sporting city has its senior soccer team in the top division.
“No disrespect to the first division, but it’s not the best of standards. Having a team in the premier is a big plus for the city, and it will get more people supporting us,” he added.
This season will represent the first time Limerick have played a full premier campaign in the Markets Field since it reopened to soccer – the last time, when they suffered relegation heartbreak, they spent the first half of the campaign in Jackman Park.
The Super Blues fans are dreaming of reaching European competition by finishing in the top three positions in the league.
However, they say they will settle for a respectable sixth place, and safety from relegation.