Frank Browne spent many years of his career representing his local League of Ireland team Limerick FC in the Eircom League in the late nineties and early noughties. The robust defender was a key player under former Limerick FC manager Noel O’Connor where his versatility was a key asset for the team.
Browne played on a successful Limerick underage team under the guidance of O’Connor and graduated to the senior team in his teenage years. The left-back admits that the step up to the first team came as a bit of a surprise to him.
“It was a bit of a shock I suppose. I remember my first senior game for Limerick was in St. Mels Park against Athlone Town. Noel O’Connor was the underage manager and Noel King was the senior manager. Noel King never turned up and Billy Guinane took over for the day and told me I was starting at left midfield. I looked at the player opposite and though I’d get the better of him as he was old. He turned me upside down after the first ball and welcomed me to the league.”
When asked who was the nest player he had played with at the club, Browne reserved special praise for the three former teammates.
“The likes of Stephen O’Flynn and Ciaran Foley went on to have great League of Ireland careers. Pat Purcell was another great League of Ireland player and they all had different attributes which benefited the squad. Stephen was an unbelievable goalscorer and Foley was great with the ball at his feet. Paddy thought he was a footballer but he was dominant at the back.”
Browne’s greatest achievement at the club was being part of the 2002 League Cup winning Limerick squad despite finishing bottom of the first division. Limerick beat four premier division sides including Galway, Cork City, Shamrock Rovers and Derry City to win the trophy and it was certainly an unexpected success.
“We played Cork on a Sunday and it was a miserable day. Ollie Cahill seemed to be down my side all day long. Derek (McCarthy) scored and we celebrated the goal but we didn’t realise at the time how far we would go. We played Shamrock Rovers here in Jackman Park and again it was another miserable day. I remember Eoin Poill crossing the ball in from the right and Donners )Brian Donnellan caught it on the volley and we held out to win. The celebrations afterwards were unbelievable.”
Browne had started both the quarter and semi-final at left back but was replaced by Conor Molan for the first leg of the final against Derry at Jackman Park. He reveals it was tough to take at the time.
“I had played every game leading up to the final but the gaffer just decided to go with Conor Molan for the final. I was gutted but I tried to put a brave face on and get on with it if I was required.”
During the early stages of the second leg, Conor Molan was forced off with a nasty ankle injury and Browne was summoned from the bench to replace him. In such a big game, he was just concentrating on doing the simple things well.
“Yeah you wouldn’t wish anyone to get an injury. When he went down, I went through the warm up and knew from an early stage that he wasn’t going to be alright. I was just preparing myself mentally to go out and do my job and I managed to play my way in to the game.” The former Regional man went on to have a superb game for the Shannonsiders and was extremely solid in defence.
Confusion followed Liam Coyle’s goal for Derry which levelled the game at 2-2 on aggregate. Limerick were unaware that away goals didn’t count and rushed to get an equaliser until word spread that the game would end in a draw as it stood. The game went to penalties and Browne states that the felling of elation took over once Jamie Higgins hit the crossbar and Limerick were crowned Eircom League Cup champions.
“I just remember standing in the centre circle with the lads. We were elated to be honest. It was great to see all the people who had stuck with us throughout the year celebrating. A lot of the players parents travelled up and It was great for them.”