With the culmination of the Pat O’Sullivan era at Limerick FC last week and as we approach the end of the second decade of the 21st century, we decided to undertake the challenge of selecting the best 11 players to have represented Limerick in the Airtricity League since 2010.
Due to many factors, including the fact that Airtricity League players transfer from club to club so frequently, it was a difficult task to complete. Obviously, some positions picked themselves due to the longevity and quality of the players below, but some choices may be viewed as controversial.
Anyway, here is the Sporting Limerick selection for Limerick FC team of the decade.
1. Barry Ryan
Barry Ryan was one of the easier decisions despite the popularity of Freddy Hall during his time at the club. Pat Scully signed the experienced goalkeeper in 2011 from Galway United and it was initially thought that the Clare native would be goalkeeping coach with his younger brother Dave Ryan as the preferred choice as no.1.
However, Dave Ryan suffered a serious injury during pre-season of 2011 and Barry stepped in to fill the void. As it turned out, it was an inspired set of circumstances as Ryan was pivotal to Limerick FC’s promotion to the Premier Division in 2012. During his stint with the club, the former St. Patrick’s Athletic stalwart was outstanding for two years in the Premier Division and was named in the RTE Airtricity League Team of the Year in 2013.
2. Shaun Kelly: The Killybegs native spent 8 and a half years of the decade in the blue of Limerick FC having joined the club from Galway in the second half of 2011. In his first four years with the club, Kelly was a very reliable and solid right-back before he spent a short time at Derry City in 2014/15. Kelly returned to Limerick for the second half of the 2015 season as the club went on a superb run but fell just short of Premier Division survival.
12 February 2019; Shaun Kelly of Limerick during the launch of the 2019 SSE Airtricity League season at the Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
The former Dundalk man was surprisingly released in 2017 and by his own admission, struggled upon returning in 2018 before re-gaining his place towards the end of the campaign, owing to strong displays in the run-in. Last season, Kelly was appointed captain of the first team during a difficult campaign. He was a very popular player among supporters and in the dressing room and is seen as an adopted Limerick man.
3. Robbie Williams: The selection of Williams wont come as a surprise to many but the decision to place the Englishman at left-back may come as a surprise. The more recent supporter from 2015 onwards will only have seen Williams line-out at centre-back. Yes, Williams won a First Division at centre-back but was released by Neil McDonald in 2017 and didn’t play for the club in 2018.
SSE Airtricity League Premier Division, Dalymount Park, Dublin 23/5/2017 Bohemians vs Limerick Limerick’s Robbie Williams Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Oisin Keniry
Arguably, his most consistent two seasons in a Limerick jersey came when he first arrived from England under Stuart Taylor when he was selected at left-back. Our centre-back partnership below also compliments the team. Williams has made more appearances for Limerick FC than any other club and is highly regarded by ex and current teammates on Shannonside.
4. Sam Oji: Just like another player selected below, Oji only played for the club for a season and a half and left on a sour note, criticising the club’s hierarchy upon joining Galway United in 2015. The powerful centre-back was commanding in the air and although not blessed with superb ability on the ball, he was a fully committed defender.
Airtricity League Premier Division 22/3/2014 St. Patrick’s Athletic vs Limerick Christy Fagan of Pat’s with Sam Oji of Limerick Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Donall Farmer
He enjoyed a great partnership with Stephen Folan in 2014. He was also deceptively quick off the mark and edges Limerick’s very own Paudie O’Connor for the spot, due to the fact that Oji played his football for Limerick in the Premier Division during a good spell.
5. Pat Purcell: Despite his popularity, it could be argued that this is a controversial choice on our part. Purcell’s best years were arguably in the decade before as he featured for a strong Waterford side in the Premier Division for two years and also for a number of years for Limerick, being named in several ‘First Division Team of the Year’s’ including in 2006 and 2007.
Airtricity League First Division 13/10/2012 Limerick FC vs Wexford Youths Limerick’s Pat Purcell lifts the trophy Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Purcell showed great loyalty to Limerick from 2006 onwards and as a result spent the peak of his career playing in the First Division when he should have been plying his trade in the top tier. The arrival of Pat Scully re-invigorated Purcell and he led from the front between 2010-2012. His commanding presence and goal scoring abilities from set-pieces were vital for the club. He was a natural leader and had the respect of all team-mates. The former Fairview Rangers man only featured twice in the Premier Division for the club in this decade before departing but his contribution in aiding the return to the top-flight could not be ignored.
6. Joe Gamble: Upon returning to Ireland from Hartlepool United in 2011, there was stiff competition for Gamble as his hometown club Cork City and Limerick FC fought for his signature. Although everyone believed he would end up on Leeside, the tenacious midfielder opted to join Pat O’Sullivan’s ‘Limerick revolution’. As it turned out, the signings of Gamble and striker Denis Behan, was the beginning of gross overspending on Shannonside but at the time, it was a real coup and statement of intent.
Airtricity League Premier Division 24/5/2013 Limerick vs Sligo Rovers Limerick’s Joe Gamble and David Cawley of Sligo Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie
Gamble had a reputation for earning silly yellow cards but he was very vocal on the pitch and a great reader of the game. His experience at Premier Division level was vital when the club were promoted in 2012. Following his release, he went on to win the Singapore League with Brunei DPMM and upon his return to Ireland, he was appointed Strength and Conditioning coach at Limerick before his departure in 2018. Former owner Pat O’Sullivan was a big admirer of the former Reading man.
7. Bastien Hery: The Frenchman only spent one year on Shannonside but he certainly made an impact. When Hery arrived under Martin Russell’s stewardship, he took a while to settle in due to fitness issues as the former Sheffield Wednesday youth player had rarely featured for previous club Accrington Stanley. From May onwards, Hery made the position his own with a string of energetic performances.
Bastien Héry of Limerick FC in action against Georgie Poynton and Keith Ward of Bohemians. SSEAirtricity League Premier Division, Limerick FC V Dundalk FC. 13/03/2017. Limerick, Markets Field, Co Limerick. Credit: Conor Wyse
The cultured midfielder was like a different player in the second half of the season. He rarely lost possession and frequently covered the job of two men in a deep lying defensive midfield role. He was tremendous in a 2-1 victory over eventual league winners Cork City which cemented Limerick’s place in the Premier Division.
Many were disappointed to see Hery leave for Waterford as his friendly demeanour and quality led him to become a fans favourite for his brief spell in Limerick. He kept current Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley out of this team.
8. Shane Duggan: The Duggan family name is synonymous with senior soccer in Limerick and there was no doubt that Shane earned his position in this midfield. We have selected Shane in a more advanced role with both Hery and Gamble behind him. Although Duggan spent most of his time captaining Limerick from a defensive midfield position, he spent his formative years with Cork City as a box to box midfielder to greater effect.
SSE Airtrcity League Premier Division, Markets Field, Limerick 27/7/2018 Limerick vs Waterford Limerick’s Shane Duggan Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
He has a great reputation among his fellow Airtricity League players and one of the most admirable qualities that Duggan possessed was his bravery. Particularly in 2015 and 2018 when the team were going through terrible spells on the pitch, Duggan demanded possession no matter where he was on the pitch. Not the most vocal captain, he attempted to lead by example.
Two of his best memories in a Limerick jersey saw the current Galway man score vital goals against Sligo (2015) and Waterford (2018) to earn the club two massive wins. He lifted the First Division trophy in 2016. His last appearance for his hometown club was in the relegation play-off defeat against Finn Harps in 2018. It was far from a fitting end for a great servant.
9. Rory Gaffney: The current Walsall striker signed for Limerick from Mervue United in 2011 and was touted as one of the hottest properties in the Airtricity League First Division. Gaffney often featured on the wing for the Super Blues under Stuart Taylor in the Premier Division.
It was during the 2014 season that Gaffney really came to life with a number of inspired displays which attracted interest from several English scouts. One of his best performances for the club came in a 4-1 demolition of Shamrock Rovers in August.
SSE Airtricity League Premier Division 18/8/2014 Limerick Rory Gaffney Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Gaffney gave Dave O’Connor and Conor Kenna a tough night and continued that form until the end of season. He netted 29 times in 85 appearances before a move to Cambridge at the end of the campaign.
While many may feel that the Galway native was best suited on the wing, we have selected Gaffney to lead the line. Vinny Faherty scored 12 goals in a superb second half of the season for the club in 2015 while Rodrigo Tosi was a fans favourite. However, Gaffney’s pace and aerial threat as well as his long throw delivery gives him the edge.
10. Chiedozie Ogbene: Another relatively tough decision to make. It was imperative that a natural winger was selected due to the 4-2-3-1 formation chosen. Danny Galbraith, Ian Turner and Dean Clarke were all in contention but Clarke and Turner struggled upon returning to the club in 2017 and Galbraith’s suffered from injuries during his time in Ireland.
Chiedozie Ogbene of Limerick FC pursued by Colm Deasy, Drogheda United. SSEAirtricity League Premier Division, Limerick FC V Drogheda United. 15/04/2017. Limerick, Markets Field, Co Limerick. Credit: Conor Wyse
Cork man Ogbene possessed blistering pace which struck fear into the opposition full-back. His athleticism was second to none and when Limerick were struggling during the second half of the 2017 season, Ogbene was the creative player the team looked to. Ogbene scored 8 goals in 32 appearances which was a good return considering the winger did not start for the first four games of the season. He now plies his trade with Rotherham in England.
11. Shane Tracy: The long standing clubman was a shoe in for this team as he was a mainstay for each of the last ten seasons whether it be at left-back or left wing. From Pat Scully to Stuart Taylor to Martin Russell, all managers were keen admirers of Tracy’s dedication and professionalism.
SSE Airtricity League Premier Division, Carlisle Grounds, Wicklow 21/9/2018 Bray Wanderers vs Limerick Limerick’s Shane Tracy Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Tracy has been selected on the left of a front three due to his confidence in possession of the ball, creativity and crossing ability. Lacking the pace to become a leading left-back despite playing there for 3 and a half seasons, Tracy spent the early part of his career with his hometown club on the left-wing or in central midfield. Limerick signed many wingers including Axel Bossekota, Kieran Djilali and Ian Turner, but Tracy’s longevity beats any competition.