Posts Tagged ‘ Market’s Field ’

Limerick Revolution Knows No Limits

st2013 looks set to be a pivotal year in Irish soccer as one club bravely seeks to establish themselves among the footballing elite of the League of Ireland.

The words mediocrity, disappointment, death and rebirth give a thinly veiled history of two time League of Ireland champions Limerick FC, yet football on Shannonside looks set for something of a renaissance under the tutelage of Stuart Taylor, who has been handed a three year deal.

19 years have passed since the club last played top flight football and many Limerick fans are drooling at the thought of facing the best the country has to offer. The 19 year journey from falling through the trapdoor to their re-emergence is one that Lims fans will be hoping is well and truly something that remains in the past. Those dark days are long etched in the memory of fans and the club annals as their history depicts the numerous manifestations of the Munster side. Since their inception in 1937, Limerick FC have plied their trade as Limerick United, Limerick City and Limerick 37, with each name representing something totally different but not necessarily for the right reasons.

The early years were somewhat dull but the 1940’s brought great improvements to the banks of the Shannon as the club twice finished as runners up in both the league and cup. Success would ultimately follow in the fifties as the club laid their hands on their first national title and a Dublin City cup.

The turn of the sixties would prove to be their finest hour as they captured their first League of Ireland championship. Success would be hard to come by over the next decade as Limerick lost two FAI Cup finals before winning the blue riband in 1971.

The club endured severe financial difficulties in the seventies with fortunes on the field also hitting a snag despite league cup success and another batch of runners up medals from a FAI Cup final defeat to Dundalk. It wasn’t until ex Ireland manager Eoin Hand arrived in 1979 that the ship was steadied and League of Ireland success once again graced the mid west as did the FAI Cup in 1982.

The club changed its name to Limerick United in 1977 and won a League of Ireland Championship and FAI Cup under this name. Affairs at the club began to deteriorate after the FAI Cup win in 1982 and the beginning of the 1983-84 season saw High Court action with a battle for ownership. Soccer in the city was suspended for eight weeks pending a decision, which went in favour of Pat Grace, who changed the name of the club to Limerick City and also changed the club colours. Limerick City won the revived League of Ireland Shield and the Munster Senior Cup in its first season. The Shield was won in the last game played at Market’s Field in April 1984. They moved out of the Market’s Field to a new home in Rathbane for the start of the 1984-85 season, an unpopular decision with many fans and one that heralded a decline in the club’s fortunes.

The 1985-86 season saw the League of Ireland being divided into two divisions for the first time, with Limerick being granted Premier Division status. It wasn’t long before Grace departed and Father Joe Young took control of the club, who would now return to operating as Limerick FC.

Limerick were relegated for the first time in 1990-91, a year which also saw them lose a League Cup Final to Derry City. Current West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce was appointed as player manager for the 1991-92 season and immediately brought the club back to the top flight. Allardyce only remained for one season before departing to take up a coaching role at Preston North End. Limerick finished a respectable sixth in the Premier Division the following season and also won the League Cup, beating St. Patrick’s Athletic in the final. Relegation was to follow the following season and a long period of mediocrity and disappointment ensued.

Financial problems plagued the club, who had no real home at this stage and were often swapping between grounds. Danny Drew took over at the helm come the millennium and took the club back to Rathbane in an attempt to revive their fortunes. The 2001-02 season saw another League Cup victory but no improvement in the league followed over the coming seasons.

The true reality of the financial problems plaguing soccer on the banks of the Shannon was yet to become apparent. Limerick FC were denied a licence to compete in the 2007 First Division and this forced the FAI to seek new applicants to emerge to take their place and ensure soccer survived in the treaty county. A consortium known as Soccer Limerick would prove to be the victors and having done so moved the club now under the Limerick 37 banner to Jackman Park. Little success followed until last year when Pat Scully guided the club back to the top flight as champions, pipping Waterford United to the post by four points.

Scully’s sacking in late 2012 came as a surprise to all and the club immediately set about hiring a top level candidate. Scotland native Peter Taylor was eventually drafted in, beating a host of other well known candidates and has immediately set about restoring pride to soccer in the famous city.

Limerick FC (renamed again in 2009) now represent a model that is designed for success. 2013 will see the club play their home games at the home of Munster Rugby, Thomond Park, a move that has caught the eye of many across the country. In the form of Pat O’Sullivan, Limerick now possess a crucial ally in their battle to re-establish themselves among the footballing elite. With O’Sullivan’s backing and Taylor’s experience, it wouldn’t be too far from reality to suggest the Shannonsiders will be competing at the top end of the Premier Division in 2013.

Looking forward to his new role with Limerick FC, Stuart Taylor, explained, “I am delighted to be joining, in Limerick FC, a club with a great history but more importantly a clear long term plan for the future.  The transformation in Limerick FC since my days in the league with Drogheda is there for everyone to see.   The chairman exudes positivity and has impressed on me the importance of the club to the region and the potential role it can play in improving opportunities for young people in the region.  It is our aim to assemble a team that will not only play attractive, winning football but create a bond with the fans on and off the field.   The club has extremely passionate supporters and I look forward to their support throughout the season and I hope they will be proud of the performances the team put out on the park.  We have a good youth structure in place, a strong returning panel from last season and we hope to make some further additions before the season kicks off against Cork City.”

Taylor has immediately set about recruiting a squad capable of posing a threat to the big boys and has already re-signed last year’s First Division player of the year Rory Gaffney. Further signings are imminent as the Limerick faithful prepare for a bright future and given the outstanding achievements of Drogheda United last season, who knows where the mighty blues might end up in 2013. European football may well be on the horizon come 2014 but for now Limerick fans will just be happy to back where they feel they belong.