Limerick FC are beginning to find their feet, writes Andrew Cunneen in this week’s socccer column.
The Markets Field floodlights are about to enhance the Limerick skyline. Foundations are in place. Everything is looking forward. This week, I look at what the Club has to do in the near future to guarantee the long term future as well as reflecting on a draw against Dundalk that really didn’t surprise me as much as most.
Dundalk - five games, five wins and no goals conceded. Limerick – bottom of the league, have a problem with defending set pieces and lack a surface to improve on. Foregone conclusion? Not if you’ve Martin Russell at the helm.
Dundalk operate through Daryl Horgan. He creates the space, he finds the killer passes and he stretches the game for the Lilywhites. He starts on the left side, but drifts into the middle on a frequent basis in order to drag players out of position. How does Martin Russell stop that? By manning him up. Credit due here to Jason Hughes and Sean Harding. Hughes is limited in his technical ability, but you will not find a harder-working player across the league. Harding is now at full fitness and skipped past challenges for fun on Saturday night. He did his job, Hughes fulfilled his role – Dane Massey flew up the pitch to try and aid the problem – and this is where Limerick attacked.
Clarke causes all sorts of problems for opposition defenders with his movement. He’s the one that creates the space for Limerick, he’s the one that makes things happen and hopefully, for the future – he’ll be the name associated with lifting Limerick FC to a competitive state in the top tier. Limerick have shown enough signs to suggest they’re a good side and if you think otherwise, you need to watch more football. Stephen Kenny also stated this on Saturday night. On a limited budget, this is a better side than it should be.
If there was one man I was happiest for on Saturday, it was Paul O’Conor. Coming to Limerick and citing top four as the aim for the year was ambitious, but achievable with a combination of pre-Christmas budget projections and a manager who knows the league. It would be easy to not bother for O’Conor – but he’s not the type to do it. He’s the perfect complement to Shane Duggan. It meant something to him too. He’ll be the footballer that will thrive on a luscious surface and he’ll be the one people all talk about down the pub after their trip to Garryowen to see their local club.
Paudie O’Connor. Remember the name. The 17-year old sensation will be playing his football in England at a very high level in the not so distant future. I look forward to it, but I also hope he’s around long enough that everyone gets to see him play. He was the voice of the back four against Dundalk, he was the best Limerick player on the pitch and he was worth paying your money to go and see. This is high praise, and he deserves it for both his temperament and his application.
Martin Russell can lead Limerick Football Club to great things. Owen Heary isn’t off to a great start in Sligo Rovers and Martin Russell would be the obvious candidate to replace him in my eyes. What Limerick now need to do is provide Martin Russell with guarantees and a long-term contract. He knows every player in this country on professional and personal terms and nobody handles young footballing talent like that man. If that blue moon is to rise, make sure Russell is on top of it.
Bringing you back down to earth – Limerick have a huge game next Saturday against Bray Wanderers. Lose and the Dundalk results means nothing. Maybe delay take-off for just another short while.