In this week’s Limerick Leader column, Andrew Cunneen looks back at Limerick’s FC two recent matches - and the ongoing saga involving the banned supporters.
As expected, things improved on the pitch. Slightly. If only more people had seen the performances.
A group of supporters protested outside Jackman Park on Saturday evening – holding aloft a banner which read “The fans are the Club”. This is correct – the fans most certainly are the life and soul of any club. Not just any fans, but those who would cover a bus travelling to Oriel Park on a Thursday night in the First Division, despite expecting to be hammered, just out of loyalty to the badge.
It might cost them 60 quid a head by the end of the night, but League of Ireland football is their weekend break away to Spanish Point, their three days in the south of France and their shopping trip to Dundrum. You need more people in the gate. However, more punters have been turned off attending because of the Club’s treatment of these loyal fans, than have been enticed by the absence of alleged “unacceptable behaviour”.
I have had a number of people who attended the game (some with their children) write to me and state that there was nothing they deemed excessive in the group’s actions during the home game against Bohs. I was sat close enough to them in Cork that I would have heard anything over the top. There was nothing. Of course tolerance levels vary – that goes without saying - but I’ve been to enough games of football to know what’s to be expected from fans. I’ve been in every League of Ireland ground in the country and find the ‘Blue Army’ to be one of the less explicit fan groups I’ve encountered.
They are right to protest, they are right to feel hard done by. The League of Ireland is built on passionate, core support. Limerick’s is smaller than most. The reasons for that is merely a lack of having anything to get overly excited about in the last 20 years. Having the opportunity to win a major trophy brings people to games. They get excited, they relate to those passionate supporters that deliver atmosphere and colour.
All of a sudden, your ‘core’ support trebles because people associate great memories with a football club. Limerick haven’t had that in this generation, but if and when it does come, those who suffered the terraces of Morton Stadium in sub-zero temperatures should be the first ones celebrating. You cannot build something on sand – you need the cement. I hope this issue is resolved.
Steering away from politics, Limerick were much improved against Longford Town. Well, as improved as the surface would allow them. The Jackman Park pitch is not fit to host senior football in this country. Both Martin Russell and Tony Cousins complained about it, and they’ve a right to.
Both sides like to play the ball on the ground. Both sides have quick wingers and very technically gifted midfielders. Both sides had to go reasonably long all night. This isn’t conducive to bringing in a crowd or promoting the league.
Martin Russell’s charges marched into Drogheda on Tuesday evening and failed to capitalise on a numerical advantage. Ian Turner’s penalty set them on their way, and Drogheda failed to carve out any major chances throughout. They didn’t look like scoring from open play, so all Limerick had to do was avoid giving Sean Thornton a free kick. They didn’t avoid it. He scored. They shared the points.
You’d be a brave man to suggest Limerick will pick up anything against Pat’s and Dundalk – but maybe, just maybe, the surface will aid Limerick in their quest for an upset.