Andrew Cunneen: Merry go-round is in full swing

Andrew Cunneen: Merry go-round is in full swing

THERE'S nothing quite as bizarre as the League of Ireland off-season. Ninety per cent of players are free agents, and it's a free-for-all to see who can tempt the country's best to their clubs.

Martin Russell has been busy attempting to do just that. When Chairman Pat O'Sullivan stated he wanted a top four finish, he was under pressure to provide a budget that would accommodate that ambition.

While numbers aren't clear, the calibre of player that Martin Russell has met with suggests that, should he land a handful of these additions, the Blues will be more than competitive next season.

It was very clear from last year that Limerick need players, and perhaps defensive-minded players are the priority.

Working from the back, Freddy Hall is tied down to Limerick despite interest from one of the league's big hitters.

To add to the competition, Martin Russell is in talks with St Pat's goalkeeper Brendan Clarke about coming to Shannonside. The 31-year-old stopper has won a league and an FAI Cup with the Saints in recent times and would bring vast experience to a young Limerick squad.

At the back, Paudie O'Connor has visited a number of clubs in England, thus leaving his Limerick future somewhat up in the air, while his central defensive partner Robbie Williams has yet to re-sign.

Shaun Kelly is in a similar position - a long-time fan favourite, the Donegal native is yet to put pen to paper on anything for 2017.

Paddy Barrett, a target for Cork City, would be the ideal partner for either, should only one agree terms for the coming year. Shane Tracy is signed.

An ex-Martin Russell player that could fit the bill would be Dave O'Connor.

Shifting into midfield, the big three are all confirmed for the season, with the Club announcing Duggan took the option on his contract from last year to extend his deal.

Paul O'Conor and Lee-J Lynch enter the second half of their two-year deals. Out wide, the return of Ian Turner is always one that makes a lot of sense, but it's the opposite winger from 2015 that could be making a return.

Dean Clarke was told he was surplus to requirements by manager Stephen Bradley, despite having a very solid year at Shamrock Rovers.

Clarke would favour a move back to Limerick, so if something can be agreed between the two, Clarke would inject a pace boost on the left-hand side.

Up top is where Limerick have been most active. Agreeing to remain at the club for another year, the best player in last year's First Division, Chris Mulhall, signed back this month.

His contract is absolutely merited, but he was quite limited when it came to the two big games against Pat's last year.

Trying to add to that strikepower, the First Division champions actively pursued Christy Fagan, but much like Shamrock Rovers, Bray and Dundalk - they couldn't lure him away from home comforts.

Ciaran Kilduff is next on their radar, but whether or not 'Killer' wishes to move away from a squad like Dundalk's is anyone's guess.

Vinny Faherty is the other option, but given that he's on a two-year deal at Galway, Limerick would have to pay to get him in. Unless they're badly stuck for a striker come January, this one probably isn't viable.

One thing is clear - Limerick had a squad at the end of 2016 that potentially could finish anywhere between sixth and bottom (pending injuries) in the Premier Division.

To improve, they need defenders and a consistent goalscorer.

The next few weeks should tell a lot.