On what is a massive occasion for both Fairview Rangers and Usher Celtic on Saturday afternoon in the FAI Junior Cup Final, both have differing histories in the competition. Usher will be aiming to win their first FAI Junior Cup whereas Fairview Rangers will be looking to add a ninth national title to their long list of achievements.
However, it has been effectively 10 years in the wilderness for the Fairgreen outfit since their last title when they beat St. Michaels in a penalty shoot-out in Turners Cross in the decider in 2010.
2020 had been a great year for Jason Purcell’s men until the Covid-19 outbreak put a halt to all the action and the Limerick District League season never resumed. The uncertainty surrounding the future of the FAI Junior Cup caused anxiety at the Limerick based club because after all, this is “their” trophy. As current manager Jason Purcell was once quoted as saying, there is something about the FAI Junior Cup that makes the club come alive.
Even during the mid-table struggles of the past decade locally and with a barren spell in terms of trophies, the drastic dip in form only appeared to happen once the team had been eliminated from the national competition. Dermot Finnan’s star studded sides of the nineties and early noughties dominated the competition and were feared all over Ireland.
Jason Purcell was a driving force behind that success and won the FAI Junior Cup four times as a player. He is now aiming to win it for the third time as a manager. He was the manager of the ‘class of 2010’ who were successful in Turners Cross.
On that day he had the perfect blend of youth and experience with veteran goalkeeper Eddie Hickey who hadn’t played in a few years, coming out of retirement early in the season to play for the club when they were without a goalkeeper.
It was supposed to be a short term solution but Hickey ended up staying the duration and was the hero in the final, saving a penalty from none other than Trevor Cosgrave, a player who won FAI Junior Cups with Fairview.
The defence consisted of Mike Ryan, Martin Neary, Brian Buckley and Paul Harman. Harman had been involved at League of Ireland level previously while Martin Neary was part of the successful Fairview sides in the early noughties. Neary and captain Brian Buckley formed a formidable partnership at junior level.
Buckley went on to win another FAI Junior Cup with Purcell at St. Michaels in 2014 playing at left-back. He left Limerick FC in 2007 somewhat suddenly. He was deployed at left-back when many believe he should have played in his natural central defensive role.
In midfield there was Willie O’Brien, Tommy Barrett, Colm Heffernan and a youthful Darren O’Sullivan. Barrett had left Limerick FC a few months previously and was still struggling with a knee injury.
Barrett went on to play for Athlone Town for a couple of seasons under Mike Kerley and was also part of the Fairview team that won the 2004 final against Carrick before his move to Limerick FC. He was replaced in the final by Ross Cosgrove, another player who won FAI Junior Cups under Dermot Finnan’s reign.
Colm Heffernan was full of energy and a player many believe should have played at a higher level for longer. He was one of few Limerick players at the time who could say he played at League of Ireland Premier Division level. He was instrumental to Fairview’s success.
The strikers on the day were Johnathan Grant and Christy Doyle. Doyle was recently plying his trade with local side Newport Town in the Limerick District League Premier A Division.
Grant had returned to junior football from Limerick FC in 2009 and made an immediate impact. He was replaced by Paul Danaher, who will also be part of the 2020 match day squad at Eamon Deacy Park. Grant and Danaher are the only two players from that 2010 squad still playing junior football, with Johnathan signing for Pike Rovers once again this season.
The likes of Buckley, Barrett, Neary, Heffernan and Cosgrove will be names etched in the Fairview history books particularly due to their success in the FAI Junior Cup. Is it time for the likes of Judge, Savage, Bradley, Mann and O’Connor to join the ranks? We will only know come 5 o’clock on Saturday evening.