Survive this and Limerick FC have a very bright future

Get in: Shaun Kelly, Limerick FC, celebrates his winning goal against Finn Harps on Monday night
In this week’s column, Andrew Cunneen says that the sky is the limit for Limerick FC if they can maintain their Premier Division status.

In this week’s column, Andrew Cunneen says that the sky is the limit for Limerick FC if they can maintain their Premier Division status.

A lot of people are saying that a one-goal lead is very dangerous. It is, to an extent – but we need to look at it in context before we start to panic.

Finn Harps sat in a 3-5-1-1 shape. They doubled up on Limerick’s wingers and established a siege mentality. A lot of people were frustrated with Limerick for passing it around the back, with Shane Duggan and Paul O’Conor sometimes dropping deep to collect the ball and play a seemingly pointless one-two. There’s a reason for this, though.

Have a think about how Barcelona play. It’s really boring and it’s only considered amazing to watch because they have players to produce moments of magic to open up defences for the opening goal. Then, they can be more expansive. I’m not going to compare Limerick to Barcelona by the way – in case you want to stop reading.

Sometimes when a side are dead set on just trying to limit damage, all you can do is hope someone makes a mistake or take a shot from distance. Limerick took a number of shots from distance on Monday night and one of them paid off.

Harps played it perfectly. It’s exactly what you’d expect of them, and even though they’re a First Division side, they’re notoriously dogged. That’s their reputation and it always has been. Now, add into that the fact they didn’t even have a notion about scoring a goal. See what I mean?

For Limerick to lead is crucial. It means Harps surely can’t sit in tight for any more than an hour. Limerick will be the ones with all the ball on Friday. Harps should be exhausted from their defensive efforts. In the latter stages when they try to push forward, Limerick should punish them. That’s the importance of the lead. The gulf in class is obvious – but you need a bit of luck to break down a brick wall – and I thought Limerick did well enough on the night.

Let’s take a look at the occasion now. It was special. There must have been close to 5,000 people jammed into the Garryowen venue. Some of the photos and the videos that have emerged online since are quite astonishing. Only Cork City attracted bigger crowds than that this season.

I understand the angle of ‘big events’ – but I don’t buy into the fact that there wouldn’t be more if Limerick were pushing for a league title or qualifying for Europe. Whatever about consistency with crowds like that, Limerick have showcased their product to the city. I got so many phone calls from people that never went to Limerick games in their lives panicking about where to get tickets.

It’s not the one-off occasions you need to live for though – it’s building your core support. I believe, off the back of Monday night, they’ll have done that. Core support is what determines your budget. Look what Cork City are able to do off 2,500 people. If you really want it, it’s there for you.

Finally, to the players and Martin Russell. You’re 90 minutes from going down in history as the squad that reignited the passion for a sport in a big city. If that’s not encouragement enough, I’m not sure what is. It’s been an incredible journey and it’s things like this that make players love football clubs in a league that lacks loyalty for various reasons.

Limerick can release season tickets next week for the Premier Division and make a mint. Limerick can re-sign top quality players and go about setting a plan to build on that.

All they’ve to do is not lose on Friday. Full speed ahead.