Limerick FC’s slim hopes of gaining promotion to the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division all but evaporated last weekend with a 4-3 home loss to Cobh Ramblers.
Bryan Murphy struck twice for Cobh early on and things were further compounded for the home side when former Limerick FC player, Ian Turner, fired in a cracker from 20 yards.
Limerick were a different side after the break. Goals from Sean McSweeney and Karl O’Sullivan gave the small crowd at the Markets Field hope of a comeback.
Tommy Barrett’s side were 3-0 down after a horrid opening 45 minutes, but came back strongly after the break. However, their late rally was unsuccessful and the Cork side earned all three points.
However, David Hurley’s cheeky penalty put Cobh back in the ascendancy with 21 minutes left on the clock.
Lee Devitt capped another impressive display with Limerick’s third goal, but an equalizer wasn’t forthcoming.
As a result, Cobh are now just six points off Limerick in sixth, while the Super Blues lie eight points behind this week’s opponents Cabinteely, who occupy the final playoff spot. Barrett was at a loss to explain the opening half hour.
“I don’t know what went wrong. It was just shocking, all over the pitch. We didn’t press them and we made Cobh look better than they actually are. We were just miles off it.
“We didn’t get high enough up the pitch. We had the intention of playing high up the pitch and not letting them get out and force them to go long and we would win it off their striker. That was the plan. It was just all over the place.”
Barrett clearly had enough when Turner put Cobh three ahead and replaced Kieran Hanlon and Aaron Fitzgerald with Clyde O’Connell and Sean McSweeney.
It was a move that worked as both had huge impacts on the game when they came on. The Limerick boss admitted after the game that he could have made the switches earlier.
“I was going to make them at 1-0 and I probably should have. It’s hard on players sometimes. You try to give them as long as possible.
“I was trying to give them 25/26 minutes, but I was going to do it after 10 minutes to be honest.
“I was a player myself and getting whipped off is not nice. It could have been anyone, we were that poor. It’s nothing personal, but you just have to take lads off.”
The defeat to Cobh was Limerick’s third on the bounce and the result effectively finishes their hopes of finishing in the top four and earning an end of season playoff spot.
An away victory over Cabinteely this Friday would give Limerick a slight hope of redemption, but Barrett is realistic of where the club are currently at.
“Are we really in a position to go up? Of course we want to do our best and get to a playoff, but we have to build it.
“All things being equal this year, if we had kept the same squad from the start of the season, which was probably lower mid table budget, a younger squad than Galway and maybe Cobh, I think we have done really well.
“Hopefully we can kick on from here next year if things are done right. Whether we have money or whether we don’t have money.
“As long as we have our structures right within the club and that we set the budget at the start. If it’s no budget, fine, for whoever is manager, the budget can’t be cut.
“We lost six or seven players again. The same as last year and they are very hard to replace during the season, especially when it’s your better players that you are losing. That’s not an excuse, it’s just the reality and they are the facts.
“It’s very difficult to keep going like that. You also have to have everything else right. You have to have professional players in this country. If you are going back to amateur, which we have done, it’s a step backwards.”