Andrew Cunneen Column - Testing times for Limerick FC

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In this week’s Limerick FC column, Andrew Cunneen looks back on Limerick’s two recent losses - and ahead to Friday night’s clash with Shamrock Rovers.

In this week’s Limerick FC column, Andrew Cunneen looks back on Limerick’s two recent losses - and ahead to Friday night’s clash with Shamrock Rovers.

I’m 22 years of age. I’ve seen hundreds of games of football at various levels and in different countries. I’ve been at games with less people than the 354 in attendance on Monday night in Jackman Park, but I’ve never been in a footballing environment as flat.

Let me begin, first, with Galway on Friday night. There weren’t many special performances on the pitch that night, with the honourable exception of Galway’s Ryan Connolly. Limerick lacked any real bite. They probably deserved to lose by three or four, and when Galway don’t play that well and you can still say that, there’s something wrong.

Monday night – Limerick had the majority of the ball. They should have been one-nil up through Paul O’Conor. But then again, they should have won in Bray and they should have won in Drogheda. Performance levels aren’t consistently terrible. This team go from not turning up to being wasteful. Teams in the bottom half are typically inconsistent. As I said in week one, you’re getting what you’re paying for, but the teams that avoid the mess around the bottom two take their chances when they come, and convert when they dominate. This Limerick side don’t do it and tend to pay the price in spectacular fashion.

Martin Russell’s sides play football and the XI he has is suited to that. The surface they play on typically isn’t, so it may well be worth soaking up pressure and going long while maintaining defensive shape. It’s not as if there’s many around to complain about it. In saying that, the Markets Field surface should be a lot better, so the transition may have to wait if it’s to happen at all.

UCD stayed up with arguably worse teams than this one through playing football. Martin Russell orchestrated them. Some teams that sit in actually fly up the league table, like Drogheda a few years back. Whatever the approach Martin Russell wishes to take, I hope that identity is formed very quickly when the Markets Field gates open.

There’s a saving grace though. The league is very much in two halves. And in the bottom half, you have another half. You’re probably looking at Limerick, Bray and Galway as the bottom three. You need to finish ahead of both of those and I believe Limerick are better than Bray. If and when the identity is formed, they could match Galway and eclipse them. Drogheda may also fall into trouble over the second series of games as well. Limerick brought in some character and drive in Jason Hughes and Shane Tracy.

Not a lot has changed since their arrivals you might argue, but Tracy in particular will take time. He’s not at full match fitness just yet. His passion and will to win will enhance this side and they’ll be better for it. This is something to build on. People need to stop thinking short-term. Galway, Bray and Drogheda all travel down to Limerick in the second series of games. You’re not relegated in April.

Shamrock Rovers are up next. They’re probably the most efficient side in the league in that they can adjust to any type of game, as well as any type of surface. Barry Ryan probably won Limerick points by himself at times last year, while Conor O’Donnell continues to frustrate. Limerick have conceded 23 goals in nine games and are scoring less than a goal a game to compensate. Shamrock Rovers have conceded just three times in nine games. The Hoops will probably outnumber the Limerick support by three to one.

Limerick snuck a deserved result against Dundalk. I’m doubtful that will happen again against Pat Fenlon’s charges. We might be in for a long 90 minutes against the 17-time league winners.