Former Limerick FC winger Brian Donnellan took time out to reflect on his time in the League of Ireland with the Shannonsiders. Donnellan came through the underage system at Hogan Park before graduating to the senior team in 2001 under the guidance of Noel O’Connor. He played for the senior team for four full seasons in 2001, 2002 and 2005.
The Clare native admits that work commitments prevented him from continuing to line out for the club beyond 2005.
“I was only 18 or 19 when I started. I played for five or six seasons overall until work got in the way and I couldn’t commit to midweek games and other things. I really enjoyed it even though they were lean enough years. We were at the wrong end of the table for a good few of them.”
Having taken two years out in 2003 and 2004, Donnellan returned to the club in 2005 when Noel O’Connor returned from Cork City. He says it was one of his better experiences with the Super Blues.
“That was actually one of the better years. During my first couple of years, we were rooted to the bottom. In 2005, we started really well. We were in contention with Sligo Rovers and we played them in July in Hogan Park and they beat us 2-1. That put a bit of daylight between us but that was a good season. Everything was more professional We got a good few players in from outside which we hadn’t in earlier years because we didn’t have any money.”
Donnellan has great admiration for former team mate and Limerick FC captain Paul Finucane who he rates as the best player he has played with.
“Paul always looked as if he was in control. He was brilliant in the air and brilliant on the ground. I used to play on the left wing and I found that Finny used to come that way a lot as he was left footed. Pat Purcell was class as well but I played with Finny underage at Limerick as well.”
In 2002, Donnellan was part of the Limerick team which won the Eircom League Cup against all the odds despite finishing bottom of the Eircom League First Division. He scored a spectacular winning goal in the semi-final victory over Shamrock Rovers at Jackman Park on a Wednesday afternoon. The energetic left winger is modest in his appraisal of the performance.
“We didn’t have much of the ball at all that day. They were second or third in the premier at the time and had Damien Richardson as their manager who was the Stephen Kenny of his time. We hung in there and I remember Eoin Poill got a ball on the right and crossed it to the back post and I got on the end of it.”
Donnellan has great memories of the celebrations after beating Derry at the Brandywell in the second leg of the final following the penalty shoot-out.
“Yeah absolutely. You have to remember that there was very little recognition out of it. It’s not like anyone really knew Limerick FC players at the time. You were putting in a huge effort similar to what the hurlers put in this year with very little reward so it was great to get the cup. We had a very loyal band of supporters who followed us everywhere so it was great for them.”
Donnellan takes great pride from the fact that he was part of a core group of players who kept the show on the road for many years during tough times for the Shannonsiders. However, he feels others are more deserving of the credit.
“As I said earlier, we were young and in college and when you are a young lad all you want to do is play soccer so it wasn’t a huge burden on us. It was great for the likes of Derek and John (Whyte) who had stuck around for years. Limerick had been better in the earlier years and then they had to stick through it. It would have been easy to walk away. They were making sacrifices with families that we didn’t have to.”