2019 Season Preview - Limerick

Wed, Feb 20 2019

Markets Field Credit: Michael P Ryan (ETPhotos)

Manager: Tommy Barrett

Stadium: Markets Field

2019 Players in: Robbie Williams (Galway United), Sean Russell (Galway United), Jason Hughes (Ballynanty Rovers), Kieran Hanlon (Pike Rovers), Sean McSweeney (Regional United).  

2019 Players out: Killian Cantwell (Bray Wanderers), Shane Duggan (Waterford), Cían Coleman (St. Patrick’s Athletic), Barry Maguire (Geylang International), Darren Murphy, Danny Morrissey, Billy Dennehy, Darren Dennehy, Colman Kennedy (all released)

Extratime.ie Key Man: Jason Hughes

Returning to the club for a fourth spell, Hughes looks likely to be at the heart of the Limerick midfield. An energetic and mobile midfielder, Hughes is one of the most experienced players in the squad. Having spent time with Athlone Town, Sligo Rovers and in junior football, the 27 year-old has plenty to offer his youthful teammates.

Tommy Barrett previously played with Hughes in both Limerick and Athlone and will know exactly what he’ll get from the local lad. He may be expected to chip in with a few goals, or at least supply the ammunition for a relatively youthful attack.

Extratime.ie One to Watch: William Fitzgerald

Despite being just 19, Fitzgerald has already clocked up over 30 senior appearances for the Blues.

The winger will be hoping he can add his first senior goal after a decent 2018 saw Fitzgerald become a key member of Barrett’s team. Stephen Kenny recently had Fitzgerald, along with teammate Karl O’Sullivan, in the Irish under-21 side, a reward for some good displays in a struggling outfit last term.

His movement and dribbling haven’t looked out of place in the League of Ireland, but adding a final product would greatly enhance his reputation as a rising star in his native Limerick. He also boasts a long throw that could cause problems for opposition, if improved upon. 

How they did last season:

League: 9th(Premier Division, lost Promotion/Relegation Play-Off 3-0 on aggregate to Finn Harps)

A disastrous season on Shannonside. Despite remaining unbeaten in their opening three games, Limerick shipped several hammerings and were untimely cut a-drift in ninth place. A dismal 3-0 aggregate reverse to Finn Harps condemned Limerick to the First Division, where they’ve spent the majority of their time since the second tier was introduced in 1985. 

The uncertainty over the future of the club cost Tommy Barrett key players mid-season, as funds dried up and Limerick reduced their wage bill. The trap door slammed shut after a dismal end to the season, with goals hard to come by and a threadbare squad devoid of the panache needed to topple Ollie Horgan’s Harps.

FAI Cup: Quarter-Final

Having reached the last four in 2017, Limerick still harboured hopes of upsetting the heavy hitters in this competition last season.

However, Dundalk firmly dismantled a young Limerick side in the quarter final, during another brutal night for the home support at the Markets Field. Earlier wins against Cockhill Celtic, 0-2, and Cabinteely, 2-1, paved a way for a clash with the eventual winners. The Lillywhites were comfortable as Limerick’s frailties were visible once more. 

EA Sports Cup: Second Round

It seemed that Limerick were somewhat happy to slip out of the EA Sports Cup at the first hurdle. First Division Cobh won at Markets Field thanks to a late Ben O’Riordan goal. The tie came in the middle of a ten game winless run for the Blues who have failed to win a game in this competition since a semi-final win over Derry City in 2016.

What to expect this season:

With a squad assembled mainly with young local talent, the sprinkle of experience may not be enough to instigate promotion chatter. The bulk of the core Super Blues support would trade the brazen approach to investment for a secure and uneventful season.

Fans have local talent to become excited about with Will Fitzgerald, Karl O’Sullivan and Tomás O’Connor all likely to see much more first team football. Sean McSweeney, Kieran Hanlon and Jason Hughes have all been given another chance at this level while Robbie Williams re-signs to help improve a leaky defence. 

Off the field, news this week seems to have stabilised things. A consortium of local business people has agreed to invest moderately to secure the short term future of the club. The group appear to be aiding Pat O’Sullivan in “preparing the club for a mutually agreeable take over at the end of 2019.” 

While the ownership talk will continue, Tommy Barrett will hope his side can over-perform and keep within arm’s length of a top four spot, with the hope of maintaining a decent home support. 

Title Odds: 20/1

First game: Longford Town (H) – February 22nd