Limerick FC occupy the final promotion play-off place as the Airtricity League takes a two week break at the midway point. The Shannonsiders are eight points behind league leaders Shelbourne but only trail second place Drogheda United by four points.
Last Friday night, Tommy Barrett’s men drew 0-0 with Wexford FC in Ferrycarrig Park. Limerick went into the game without the services of top goalscorer Connor Ellis who picked up a knock. Although if rumours are to be believed, the club may have to get used to being without the former Cork City man as there are reportedly a number of suitors interested as the transfer window opens in two weeks.
Kieran Hanlon and Karl O’Sullivan had the best chances of the night for the visitors but they also had Jack Brady to thank as he denied Jack Doherty in the first half. The Super Blues may be disappointed with the result given the position of their opponents in the division but the team have been inconsistent away from home all season.
Three wins in nine games on their travels shows how reliant Limerick are on their home form in this season’s unlikely promotion push. An unbeaten home record has been key with five wins and three draws from eight games at the Markets Field.
Given the well documented financial problems engulfing the club, the performances on the pitch have exceeded even pre-season expectations. A central component in this year’s unlikely play-off place has been the performances of experienced players such as Robbie Williams and Darren Murphy.
Many people had their doubts about a return for Williams even in a first division campaign following his spell with Galway United last season. However, Williams has been imperious thus far outside of the Shelbourne away game in Tolka Park.
He has played a vital role in leading a young group on the pitch and his centre-back partner Killian Brouder has also benefitted from playing alongside the former Cork City man. It will be interesting to see whether Williams will be able to perform to a similar level for the remaining ten games of the season which will be required if the club are to continue to push for a play off position.
Despite Williams prowess, the standout performer up to this juncture has been goalkeeper Jack Brady. Two particular games come to mind when discussing Brady’s performances; early season home encounters with Drogheda United and Longford Town. Brady’s exemplary shot stopping ensured that the Shannonsiders secured two vital 0-0 draws. Also, a vital penalty save in Cabinteely led to a big victory over their play-off rivals.
Brady’s distribution has been a big plus and is one of his biggest assets. One weakness highlighted at the beginning of the season was Brady’s lack of confidence when collecting crosses but the former Longford Town has improved that aspect of his game in the last couple of months.
At the other end of the pitch, Connor Ellis’ goals have been instrumental. It isn’t long ago that supporters were beginning to question the contribution of the pacey front man who was struggling for form. His superb opening goal of the season in the fourth game against Cobh Ramblers was the turning point and the front man hasn’t looked back since.
The next few weeks are massive for the club both on and off the field but particularly the latter. Supporters patience has totally run out as the wage issue has occurred on a regular basis for a full year now. The constant negative publicity has also caused many seasoned supporters to lose faith in the club.
Weeks ago, a consortium headed by Sean Connor were in advanced talks with Pat O’Sullivan in relation to investment. Since then, there has been no communication on the issue and some sources believe that investment may not be forthcoming at this stage. Manager Tommy Barrett will be unable to bring in any players in July and as mentioned above, faces the possibility of losing a couple of key players.
The players have shown great character up to now to challenge for a play off place but there is only so long that ‘pride in the jersey’ will be apt motivation considering the off field issues.
On the field after the mid-season break, the team face a season defining period in the promotion race. On June 28th at the Markets Field, league leaders Shelbourne are the opponents. Shelbourne had a comfortable 2-0 victory when the sides met in Tolka Park. Brady was in inspired form, otherwise it could have been a heavier defeat. Ian Morris men have put early season jitters behind them and shown the form the whole league expected to go four points clear at the top and will be formidable opposition.
In the following weeks, the visit of Longford and Drogheda either side of an away trip to Bray, will decide Limerick’s fate. The club’s away record against their promotion rivals has been poor with four defeats so it is imperative that Barrett’s side gain some valuable points in the next month.