Andrew Cunneen Column - Limerick FC can’t afford another loss

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In this week’s column on Limerick FC, Andrew Cunneen looks back at Limerick FC’s loss to Cork City and ahead to the visit of Longford Town.

In this week’s column on Limerick FC, Andrew Cunneen looks back at Limerick FC’s loss to Cork City and ahead to the visit of Longford Town.

I’m not saying the Longford game on Friday is a must-win, but it’s definitely a must-not-lose.

Mick Cooke lost his first ten games last year with Athlone Town. He’ll tell you losing is a habit. The young players need the confidence, the experienced players need to be reignited by that winning feeling and the club, above all else, needs a few people in the gate.

These early-season games cannot be seen as a curtain raiser to the Markets Field. People have jobs to do. I’m going to talk about last Friday night in Turners Cross in two respects. Firstly, I’ll discuss the game of football, then I’ll discuss the occasion and the atmosphere.

John Caulfield knew what he was doing. Sean Harding didn’t look match fit, and he wasn’t. Karl Sheppard could torment Aidan Price all night, and he did. John Dunleavy and Ross Gaynor very rarely had to sit behind half way in order to cover. From the off, this game was going to be played in Limerick’s half.

It wasn’t the one-v-ones that annoyed me though. The lack of fight in Limerick on the night was evident. This wasn’t made any easier when someone rightly reminded me via Twitter that Shane Tracy and Jason Hughes were sitting at home as Limerick lacked any real bite. Shane Duggan’s tackle elicited a positive response from me. It was a 50-50 challenge with Danny Morrissey. Both men went in hard. One man was sent off. He cared enough to make that tackle and that’s a plus. Now, because of a poor refereeing decision, Limerick will be without that fight for two, maybe three games.

As for the team in general - Conor O’Donnell has been poor since arriving. Under the guidance of Eddie Hickey, you’d imagine he will improve. Harding isn’t fully fit, Sean Russell is yet to come in and Paul O’Conor is a lot better than he’s showing. This team will improve – I have no doubt about that. New teams take time to gel.

The club had a different budget before Christmas, the manager had different targets and right up until a week before the season started, the starting XI wasn’t obvious to anyone. Galway, Bray and Longford have all lost their opening two games as well.

As for Turners Cross on Friday – it’s exactly the scene that would entice any casual football fan in through the turnstiles – and it did. 5,000 people were buzzing to see their local side tackle their rivals and launch a charge up the league table. Cork’s budget is huge, but they can afford it to be with their support.

I was sat in the Derrynane Stand, surrounded by conversations about the Premier League and Chelsea’s European exit. They were rattling off the usual generic remarks – adding in Gary Neville’s analysis where appropriate. I don’t believe in that, but they were making the effort to go watch live football simultaneously, so I couldn’t complain.

There’s nothing like live football. You can assess defensive lines off the ball, you get to see every movement, hear every conversation. A marauding full back’s overlap isn’t blocked by a digital scoreboard in the top right of the screen and you’re forced to have an opinion because Sky’s overpaid pundits won’t tell you what’s happening.

Everyone is in it together and they know it. There’s something very special about a city coming together to enjoy their game of choice. I left Turners Cross at full time, only to arrive home in the middle of the Late Late. I couldn’t believe the passion I’d seen was just an hour down the road.