Limerick FC right-back Shaun Kelly took time to speak to Sporting Limerick on Thursday morning about the upcoming Galway game and life at Limerick under new manager Neil McDonald.
The defender has played in the Airtricity League for 10 years now with Dundalk, Galway, Derry City and Limerick. Speaking to Sporting Limerick after yesterday’s training session, the Killybegs man admitted that time has passed by very quickly as he enters his 7th year at the club.
“Yeah I’ve been here since 2011. The time is flying. I’m getting much older now as the time goes on. I was only 22 or 23 when I first arrived here. It’s been great, two first divisions and obviously the relegation but we bounced back straight away.”
Limerick were expected to beat Finn Harps following a fine end of season run but an extra time BJ Banda header handed Harps promotion. When pushed about that infamous night in Ballybofey, Kelly re-iterated that it was a horrible night both for the club and on a personal level.
“I think that it was my lowest point of my whole career, not just with Limerick. Especially losing in the back door of where I’m from in Donegal which was hard to take but it was good that we bounced back straight away, that was the main thing.”
The club have made a steady start on their return to the top-flight as they sit in sixth position after twenty matches. Kelly compared the current squad with other strong Limerick squads but feels that this squad is the strongest during his time at the club.
“Definitely, it would be one of the strongest. you still had great players from other squads like Barry Ryan in goals, Rory Gaffney, Craig Curran and Sam Oji. The depth we have in this squad means it’s probably the strongest squad Limerick have had for many years.”
Limerick face Galway United at Eamonn Deacy Park this evening in a crucial game for both clubs. Kelly had a short spell with Galway in 2010 before joining Limerick. The seasoned defender knows how important the game is for the club and says it has been drilled into the players all week leading up to it.
“I think it’s a huge game because if we can win we are looking up rather than down. If you dont win it, you are always looking over your shoulder. We have spoken about it and we know it’s a huge game.”
Ex-Limerick player Vinny Faherty will line out for his hometown club against the Super Blues tonight and although Shaun and the rest of the squad are still in contact with the striker, they will be hoping to prevent him causing any damage this evening.
“Vinny was obviously here with us when I signed back half way through the season, he came in to form and was scoring a lot of goals. He got player of the month one of the months too. Vinny still has a lot of friends here and we all keep in touch with Vinny so it will be good to see him but hopefully we will be putting one over on him tomorrow night.”
New manager Neil McDonald was a surprise appointment in Limerick due to his reputation as an assistant manager with some big clubs in England including West Ham and Hull City. However, the Newcastle born manager has only managed three clubs including Carlisle and Blackpool in a short managerial career.
Kelly feels that the squad remained focused during the time time of upheaval and thoroughly enjoyed Willie Boland’s caretake reign at the club.
“There were names being thrown about. I heard a lot of big names being talked about but we were the same as everyone else, we were just waiting to hear who it was going to be and I think the players just had to get on with it because everyone was enjoying it at the time.
“Willie was doing an excellent job. Willie made it clear at the start that he would step aside once the club made that decision. Since the new gaffer has come in, he has been trying to get his points across. It’s only in the last few weeks we are getting there. Obviously, the Cork result isn’t what we wanted but results other than that haven’t been bad.”
The new manager has a reputation for instructing his teams to adopt a direct approach with a formation to match which is worlds apart from the philosophy of his predecessor Martin Russell.
The Donegal native can see the positives and negatives to both styles but believes that Limerick are playing to their strengths when utilizing the pace of Chiedozie Ogbene when partnering Rodrigo Tosi up front.
“Yeah they are a lot different. Martin wanted to keep the ball a lot and you sometimes play in positions that you shouldn’t when trying to keep the ball. But at the same time, a manager doesn’t go out to tell you to pass the ball to the opposition so whenever things like that happen the players have to take responsibility for that and not the manager.
“When you’ve got someone like Rodrigo up front and Chiedozie, a pacey player and a target man, its great having that out ball but at the same time you don’t want to constantly go direct. You have to mix it up a bit or it becomes very predictable. It’s great having the likes of Chiedozie and Dean Clarke on the wings. With the gaffer coming in with a big reputation, he is just putting his mark on it right now.”
Throughout the season, Limerick players and supporters have stated their desire to finish in the top half of the table. However, with three teams going down, the more pessimistic (or realistic) supporters have sighted avoiding relegation as the main aim. This target is something that Kelly agrees with.
“When you look at the some of the players we have, you would be very disappointed to be relegated but at the same time you cant take that for granted with three teams going down.
“Ourselves and Drogheda have come up from the first division and the rest are established premier division clubs. It was up to us and Drogheda to come up and prove that we were good enough to stay here and i think that you have to stay in the league and everything else is a bonuse because there are some very good teams like Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk, Cork and Derry in the league. Staying in the league was the biggest thing. “
Limerick take on Galway United on Friday evening at Eamonn Deacy Park with kick-off 7.45 pm.