Limerick FC player profiles

We continue to sift through the 2019 Limerick FC squad ahead of the Airtricity League First Division kick-off against Longford Town on Friday night at the Markets Field. Having already discussed the careers of Shane Tracy, Shaun Kelly and Robbie Williams, we analyse the importance of three players in the attacking third of the pitch; Will Fitzgerald, Karl O’Sullivan and Conor Ellis.

Conor Ellis: The striker signed for Limerick last season on a two year contract from Cork City in the search for regular first team football. Limerick supporters were delighted with the signing at the time and John Caulfield was quick to praise the athletic Cork man. Manager Tommy Barrett knew Ellis well from pitting his Limerick under 19’s side against Ellis’ Leesiders. Speaking upon securing his signature, Barrett stated “Conor is a great signing for us and fits the profile of the type of player we want. I’ve admired him with the 19s for many years.” In positive news for supporters, Ellis did thrive at Cobh Ramblers at this level for a six month loan period from Cork City in 2016.

Admittedly, Ellis took time to settle on Shannonside and experienced striker Mark O’Sullivan was preferred to his Cork compatriot for the first three months of the season until the extent of the club’s financial troubles became clear. The financial turbulence allowed Ellis to become a regular starter as much of the key players left the club to trim the wage bill.

Ellis was not helped by the fact that Limerick suffered some heavy defeats and struggled when in possession. He was often isolated up front against physically strong defenders in the premier division. Barrett was quick to say that Conor must improve his hold up play as that was part of being a striker at this level.

It is going to be a massive season for the 21 year-old who will be tasked with finding the net on a regular basis in the second tier as Limerick have only one other recognised striker in the squad. If the former Cork man wants to revive his career and return to the Airtricity League Premier Division in the near future, whether it be with Limerick or another club, he must perform for the Shannonsiders. Barrett will be hoping that Ellis will repay the faith shown in him although some will say it is out of necessity on this occasion. Ideally, the former Cork man’s biggest asset is his pace and Limerick must find a way to use this to their advantage.

Karl O’Sullivan: The 18 year old winger burst on to the scene in May of last year after being part of the u-19s set up. With Daniel Kearns, Mark O’Sullivan and Conor Clifford departing, O’Sullivan was drafted in to the first team following several games on the substitutes bench. He announced himself at Airtricity League level in July in an away game at St. Patrick’s Athletic which was live on Eir Sport.

O’Sullivan performed superbly against one of the best left-backs in the league in Ian Bermingham. Bermingham was given a torrid time in the first half and Limerick should have profited from many dribbles and crosses from the right winger. Also, Karl played exceptionally well in the league against Dundalk in a 0-1 home defeat. What made his graduation to the first team all the more impressive was the fact that he missed the whole month of June as he was sitting his leaving cert exams.

The performances did not go unnoticed and as recently as two weeks ago, new Irish under-21 manager and former Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny included Karl in a home based Irish squad to take on an Irish amateur selection in his first game in charge. The youngster came on as a replacement in injury time. Like Ellis, it is vital that O’Sullivan stays fit and with a season at premier division level under his belt, one would be hopeful that he can add assists and goals which have understandably been in short supply up to now.

However, O’Sullivan’s ability to run with the ball at pace and dribble past players at ease will be a big asset in the second tier. Having been thrown in at the deep end last year under trying circumstances, it may actually help the tricky winger heading into the new season on Friday night. Limerick central midfielders must use O’Sullivan at every available opportunity.

Will Fitzgerald: Much like Karl O’Sullivan, Will Fitzgerald was thrown in at the deep end in 2018 due to the upheaval at the club. Fitzgerald came through the Limerick FC academy having played for both the under 17’s and under 19s.

However, unlike his fellow winger, he was used as a substitute in the very first game against Sligo Rovers and featured in 32 league games from that point on. The management team admitted that they would have liked to rest Fitzgerald more regularly but had no choice but to select him. At such a young age, a lot of pressure was put on the left winger to provide an attacking threat. Fitzgerald was used as a second striker on many occasions behind either Mark O’Sullivan or Connor Ellis.

Furthermore, the former Mervue United youth player possess a Rory Delap-esque long throw which Limerick tried to avail of on several occasions last season. Unfortunately, despite plenty of endeavour, Fitzgerald lacked composure in front of goal as you would expect from such a young player.

Bearing this in mind, with a year under his belt in senior football and playing one division lower, Limerick supporters will be hoping to see further improvement in 2019. He possesses a great work ethic which was key to his popularity among die hard fans last season. Also, when Limerick were in a dogfight, Fitzgerald showed great courage to receive possession and one thing is certain, no right full-back in the Airtricity League will have an easy game against him this season.

The 19 year-old was also selected by Stephen Kenny for his first game in charge of the Irish under 21s and was brought on with five minutes remaining. There were rumours that Kenny had been monitoring the progress of the hard working player with a view to bringing him to the league champions before his departure.

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