Does loyalty matter in football anymore? It certainly does to Limerick FC’s Shane Tracy who has been at the club for the last four seasons, along with Paddy Purcell and Dave Ryan. Shane took time out to talk to Extratime.ie about his ambitions for the rest of the year, as well as reflections on the season so far, and give his opinions on the club he plays for.
After attracting attention from Arsenal while playing at local side Wembley Rovers, Shane Tracy found himself making more appearances than anyone for the Under-18’s side in north London. After making the step-up to the reserves, Shane was released in 2007, when he arrived home to play for Galway United. The winger then saw his loan spell to Limerick become a permanent transfer at the beginning of 2009. He has plied his trade on Shannonside ever since.
Shane almost saw his club fold in 2009, until the brave and ambitious partnership of Pat Scully and Pat O’Sullivan arrived to direct the club on the field and off the field respectively. Shane spoke of his respect for both men.
“Since Pat [Scully] has come in there has been a massive change in the club. He has put standards in place that he expects everyone to meet and the professionalism he has brought with him has improved everything. The work he [O’Sullivan] has done for Limerick FC and also the community of Limerick has been amazing. No one could have seen the impact he would have, and everyone within the team and club can't thank him enough.”
Shane has been involved in a few top-of-the-table battles in his time with Limerick, but none as dramatic as last year’s. Finishing three points off the top of the league, and still managing to miss out on a playoff spot was tough to take. When asked about a particular moment from the season he felt cost them, Shane was dismissive and spoke about using the disappointment as a catalyst for motivation.
“I don't think you can pick one particular thing to be honest. It is a long season and there is many things that will have an impact on what happens. The main thing was not getting promotion and that's what hurt the most, but we learnt a lot from last year and it has definitely driven us to hopefully being successful this year.”
Limerick currently sit three points clear at the top of the First Division. That dream seems painfully realistic for most supporters right now. Tracy acknowledges the work put in so far, but knows there’s a long way to go yet.
“Yeah I think we have to be confident and believe we can do it. Like I said, it is in our own hands now and you can't ask for more than that. We must keep working hard now and try to keep winning games.”
Limerick are locked in a three-way battle for the automatic promotion spot with Longford Town and Waterford United, despite what most thought would be a one-horse race. Shane admits that he expected the three sides to be competing from the start.
“There was a lot of talk about us winning the league comfortably and it being a one horse race but we knew it would not be the case. Longford improved a lot last year and added to their squad through the off-season with some very good players. Waterford have been pushing for promotion for the last couple of years and have always been up there towards the end.”
Shane, who is a left winger by trade has been drafted into left back this season and has been easily one of Limerick’s most consistent performers. The former Arsenal winger told us how he has slotted in quite easily. “I have enjoyed moving back there. The main thing for me is to be playing every week. No player wants to be sitting on the bench.”
Limerick Football Club have always had a very passionate band of fans. While attendance figures have varied from home to home, a move back to the Markets Field would surely cement a better, more consistent following. Nevertheless, the passion and commitment that a large group of supporters have shown through the bad times has been nothing short of remarkable.
Tracy admits they deserve the success as much as anyone. “Myself, Paddy and Davey Ryan have been here the longest out of the squad and have seen the support that has been given over the last couple of years even when we weren't challenging for top spot. So it would be great to give something back to them.”
Perhaps Limerick’s biggest challenge this season will arrive when they tackle the challenge of Waterford United once more. After beating their Suirside rivals on each every occasion the sides met last year, Waterford have turned those results right around and have defeated Limerick in each meeting this season.
Shane said: “We have left ourselves down in the games against Waterford this year, we know that. We made mistakes at vital times and they took advantage of them and deserved victory in the games. We still have to play them once more so hopefully we can put in a good performance and get a victory.”
The fact remains, that if Limerick win nine games, they win the league and achieve promotion. Shane has described the mood in the squad as “focused”, but he knows as well as anyone that the dream is only nine ninety minute spells away from coming true.
On a final note, Shane was asked what it would mean to him and his team mates if they were to win the league after such a long spell without Premier Division football in the city. His response was simple: “It would mean a lot; especially after going so close last year and after all the work that we have put in from the start of pre-season. Not many people win a league on their career so to do so would be great.”
Limerick FC face Longford Town next week at Jackman Park in what could be a season-defining clash.
Andrew joined Extratime for the 2010 season and covers all the on-goings down in Limerick. Having first experienced the League of Ireland in 2002, Andrew became hooked, even at such an early age. He is currently studying English and New Media at the University of Limerick. You can contact him via Twitter @Cunneen92.