Limerick FC's demise - The numbers behind the loss of senior soccer

Tom Clancy

Reporter:

Tom Clancy

Email:

sport@limerickleader.ie

Limerick FC's demise - The numbers behind the loss of senior soccer

The demise of Limerick FC has come as no great shock for those following the Blues in recent seasons. The dwindling support seen in 2019, the constant loss of key players as well as regular issues with players wages has meant things were going one direction. With Conor Noone of Baker Tilly Chartered Accountants unable to secure an investor, it appears that Limerick will be without senior football for the first time since 1937.

A look back at the players to have played for Limerick since 2007 shows that 206 different players  have been selected in match day squads for league games across seven different managers (and two caretaker managers). During those 13 seasons of football, Limerick blooded (an average of) nearly 16 new players each season and that this certainly didn’t help the club progress.

Of those 200 players, Limerick used a large number of players from the mid-west region, but players from Austria, Brazil, Bermuda, Belgium, Cameroon, DR Congo, France, England, Ghana, Holland, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Romania, Scotland, Slovakia and USA along the way. Limerick also loaned a player Sunderland, another from Norwich and can be cited as a major launch pad for Rory Gaffney (now Salford City), Paudie O’Connor (now Bradford City) and Barry Cotter (now Ipswich Town) as well as Chiedozie Ogbene (now Rotherham).

Limerick played 422 games, including a pair of two legged play-off clashes with Finn Harps. There was also a game with Wexford in 2008 which wasn’t played as Limerick refused to play due to a disagreement over the warm up area. 

Limerick found the net 606 times, with Shane Tracy top scoring with 56. The popular local lad also scored in each of the 11 seasons, first netting a winning pair penalties against Wexford Youths in 2007. At the other end the likes of Dave Ryan, Barry Ryan, Tommy Holland, Freddy Hall, Brendan Clarke and Tommy Holland were all busy – they, among others, picked the ball from the net a combined 568 times.

179 victories averages out at 16 per season, however, almost a quarter of these are accounted for in the First Division winning seasons of 2012 and 2016. Defeats, which are all too familiar to Blues fans in recent times, were recorded 152 times, with 49 of these in the last three seasons. The remaining 89 games were draws, with no 0-0 draw for over two years - between July 2015 and July 2017.

Of the permanent managers, Pat Scully oversaw more league games than any other, 121, while Neil McDonald, 20 games, had the shortest stint on Shannonside.

Two seasons at Thomond Park, with a peak attendance against Cork City, in the very first game, while Jackman Park was used from 2007 and 2012 and briefly in 2015. The Markets Field has been in operation since a 2-1 loss to Drogheda in June 2015, with all 19 other League of Ireland clubs visiting at least three times. 

The timeline of events below documents some of the highs and lows experienced for long-term fans, who’ve had hoped the club would become a major force in the top flight, when the team were secured promotion in October 2012. 


2007:
January: Paul ‘Ski’ Magee is appointed Limerick manager, as Limerick Thirty Seven FC Ltd replace Danny Drew’s Limerick FC entity in the League of Ireland. The club calls Jackman Park home, and the fans have a new name to sing, “Limerick 37”.

November: The Blues finish fourth in and reach the FAI Cup quarter-final, but Magee departs in the off season. The club opens a shop in Davis Street, during the season.

December: Mike Kerley is appointed manager for 2008 and signs a squad that is largely based locally.

2008:
October: After a season to forget on the pitch, Limerick send Dundalk up as champions, denying Shelbourne with a goal in the final seconds of the season at Tolka Park. 

2009:
February/March: Kerley quits just weeks before the season starts, and Limerick begin the season without a permanent manager. Pat Scully takes charge of the team in late March and oversees a mixed season.

July:  Pat O’Sullivan emerges from the shadows, at a public meeting to save the club. Pat O’Sullivan invests significantly in the club to clear its debts and to help it continue to future. The club had debts of over €70,000. 

October: Limerick finish 7th in a strong first division, as Pat Scully slowly gets his stamp on the team. 

2010:
May:  The FAI refuse a lucrative friendly between the club and Barcelona, intended for Thomond Park. Pat O’Sullivan ultimately takes legal action against the FAI, before mediation resolves the situation out of court. 

Scully begins to add experience to his squad, progress is made as the team finish fifth. 

2011:
July: Irish International Joe Gamble and Abbeyfeale native Denis Behan are high profile additions as promotion appears a possibility.

October: Former Chairman Jack McCarthy files a lawsuit against the FAI in excess of $1,000,000, for losses of circa €300,000 incurred in his 22 month stint with the club. He questions the way in which Munster Football Club Limerick, who are now running the club, took control.

Limerick miss out on promotion by a point, due to a controversial FAI decision which awards a crucial victory to Monaghan, who’d drawn 0-0 with Finn Harps. United withdraw from the Premier Division in June 2012 after a frustrating few months. 


2012:

March: Limerick sign Premier Division team of the year midfielder Stephen Bradley, as well as former Ireland striker Dominic Foley. The budget appears to dwarf their opposition as promotion is a must for Scully and O’Sullivan. 

August: Limerick entertains Premier League holders Manchester City in a friendly at Thomond Park. 20,400 are in attendance but the event is overshadowed by an incident which sees a banana thrown in the direction of City defender Gael Clichy. 

October: Limerick eventually get over the promotion line, with little drama, and return to the top flight for the first time in 19 years. Pat O’Sullivan gives a lengthy speech at Jackman Park with Premier Division football on the horizon. 

December:  Pat Scully is sacked by the club weeks after securing promotion, to the shock of Scully and the fans.

2013:
January: Relatively unknown and unproven Stuart Taylor takes the reigns as Limerick move to Thomond Park. Stephen Kenny is reportedly turned down by the Limerick board and joins Dundalk instead. Taylor fills his squad is filled with new talent – the majority comes from clubs in the UK. Robbie Williams, Danny Galbraith, Craig Curran and Stephen Folan are some of the new names.

March: Limerick draw 0-0 with Cork City, in front of the TV cameras, as 3,578 spectators pay into Thomond Park to watch a much changed Limerick team.

October: Inconsistency sees the side finish 7th, but optimistic for a second season in the top-flight.

2014:
January: The squad travels to Spain for pre-season, a rare luxury for a League of Ireland team, and it proves to be a costly trip, for a club who continue to rent Thomond Park for first team games.  The Club is unable to secure a primary shirt sponsor until the second half of the season.

March – October: Limerick linger around the bottom two places until Taylor is dismissed in July. Tommy Barrett oversees a 3-0 defeat to basement side Athlone Town, before Martin Russell is appointed and results improve. Limerick add Lee-J Lynch, Joey N’Do and a handful of others late in the July window to eventually secure sixth place – which proves to be the highest finish during Pat O’Sullivan’s involvement.

2015:
March: Pat O’Sullivan 'bans' supporters group “The Blue Army” from Jackman Park, prior to the season opener with Bohemians. These fans don’t return until the The Blues play in Markets Field. On the pitch, the squad is thinned down; a lack of depth and inexperience sees the team go 21 games without a victory before reinforcements arrive, mid-season.

June: Limerick lose 2-1 to Drogheda United, as football returns to Markets Field. 2,308 enjoy the new venue, but Limerick remain without a victory and are bottom of the league.

July: Chairman O’Sulllivan reveals the film ‘Shirley Valentine’ prompts him to look towards Greece for squad reinforcements. He believes the Greeks are “technically very good at football” and that “austerity has to have had an effect on football”. Limerick fail to secure any Greek players, but add Bermudian goalkeeper Freddy Hall and defender Patrick Kanyuka, who hails from Zaire, DR. Congo. 

August - October: Eventually winning on the first day of August and seven wins and two draws the final 12 games is enough to secure 11th place but a play-off with Finn Harps awaits. 

November: Shaun Kelly gives Limerick a valuable first-leg lead, in front of an estimated 5,000 spectators at the Garryowen venue.  Michael Funston levels the tie in Ballybofey before BJ Banda - in extra-time- sinks Limerick.

2016:

March: Limerick re-sign the core of the squad who finished 2015 –adding Aaron Greene, Stephen O’Flynn and Chris Mulhall. Limerick bully the opposition only losing once after enjoying a 26 game unbeaten run. A second promotion in five years while attendances are good, for the second tier.

September:  Limerick host St. Patrick’s Athletic in the EA Sports Cup Final. Leading 1-0 at half-time, a second-half collapse sees the Saints run out 4-1 winners. 

2017
February: Bastien Hery, Rodrigo Tosi and teenager Chiedozie Ogbene are the main additions. A 5-1 victory over Sligo Rovers on the opening day gives hope of pushing for a European place.

April: Mixed results witnessing the removal of Martin Russell. After 6 weeks in temporary charge Willie Boland steps aside as former Newcastle United player Neil McDonald becomes manager. McDonald believes he can make Limerick “A star club”. 

September - October: Limerick progress to an FAI Cup semi-final and finish 7th in the league, after flirting with relegation. 

2018 – McDonald quits the club during the first week of pre-season training. Tommy Barrett is given the job with just a handful of players singed. He bolsters the squad but Limerick are clear candidates for relegation. 

March: Limerick add Conor Clifford, but the former Chelsea youth team captain leaves after just 11 appearances.

July: Wage issues dominate the conversation, but Brendan Clarke, Tony Whitehead and Daniel Kearns are among those to leave the club in a bid to reduce the wage bill. Clarke calls it “A bulls***, stereotypical, LOI situation”, with players wages regularly in arrears during the season. 

Competitive in the opening rounds, Limerick are propped up by fellow crisis club Bray Wanderers, and eventually lose comprehensively to Finn Harps, 3-0, in the two-legged play-off. Back to the second tier, again.

2019
February: Daly Car Sales becomes the title shirt sponsor and the group appear keen to invest in the club to help sustain its future.

March:  A youthful but shallow squad is put in place by Barrett. Limerick begin the season with some unexpected positive results. 

April: FAI investigates the 2-0 defeat to Shelbourne for possible match-fixing. 

May: Daly Car Sales revoke funding from the club, and ask their logo is removed from the club jersey for the remainder of the season.  Limerick players unanimously vote to strike. Pat O’Sullivan tells RTÉ “The club will be fine”. 

July: Issues with wages hover over the club the players on professional contracts are forced from the club, and the club are officially amateur for the second half of the season.

September: The youthful squad battle on but the results nosedive in the final round of and games and lose 7-0 to champions Shelbourne on the final night. Betting slips are thrown onto the pitch, as match-fixing allegations continue to follow the team.  Players’ phones were seized by Gardai earlier in September, as part of the match fixing investigations.

Limerick enter examinership, with debts of around €490,000. The club owes money to players as well as many businesses in the region.

November: Deducted 26 points for entering examinership, the record books will now show Limerick as occupying the 10th and final spot in the First Division.December: The South Western Circuit Court in Ennis hears that investors to save the club weren’t found and the club is likely to be liquidated in the coming weeks. It virtually spells the end of the club, certainly in it’s current guise.