A mid-table finish (7th) last season was solid if not spectacular from Limerick following their promotion from the second tier in 2016.
Reaching the semi-final of the FAI Cup was also a welcome boost in a tournament that has not been kind to Limerick of late. The club saw a change of management midway through the campaign with Neil McDonald eventually replacing Martin Russell.
His reign in charge was short, however, and the Englishman left the Munster side only a few weeks ago, joining Scunthorpe United as assistant coach. This left the club in a far from ideal situation at a crucial period in the calendar. The Shannonsiders’ former under-19 manager Tommy Barrett has been tasked with taking over the side and the 38-year-old will no doubt be under pressure to succeed from the Limerick faithful.
The recent transfers of young stars Chiedozie Ogbene and Barry Cotter to Championship sides Brentford and Ipswich Town respectively should boost the finances on Shannonside but there’s no doubt that the duo will be big losses to the Blues.
Shane Duggan is Limerick through and through and the club’s captain has well over 100 appearances for the men in blue since signing from Cork City ahead of the 2014 season.
Duggan has been a vital cog at the heart of Limerick’s midfield and an ever-present in a side that has seen plenty of changes throughout recent seasons. While he may not always make the headlines, the number eight is Limerick’s figurehead and their squad is all the better for it.
Key new arrival
At the age of 26 winger Daniel Kearns is hitting the prime of his career and Limerick are the club set to benefit from this. The former West Ham trainee joined in November from Sligo Rovers having spent a season and a half at the Showgrounds.
A Republic of Ireland under-19 international, Belfast native Kearns has also spent time at Peterborough and Glenavon in the past. 2017 was far from the ex-Dundalk’s man best season but he has undoubted talent as shown in his two-year spell at the Lilywhites.
The Blues benefitted highly from Ogbene’s move from Cork City in search of game time and striker Connor Ellis has followed suit in departing Turner’s Cross to gain some first team action. The 20-year-old shone at City’s underage set-up and impressed on loan at Cobh Ramblers in 2016, his first year of senior football.
2017 promised much for the West Cork man but he found opportunities hard to come by in John Caulfield’s side, especially as the season progressed. The move to Limerick could be just what Ellis needs and Cork may come to rue his loss, as they did Ogbene’s.
One to watch
There is very much an ex-Cork City look to Limerick’s attack, and indeed their whole squad this season. Ellis, Mark O’Sullivan, Shane Duggan and the Dennehy brothers, Billy and Darren, are all former Cork stars but it is Danny Morrissey who we have tipped for big things in 2018. The Midleton man made his League of Ireland debut for the Leesiders in 2010 but it was 2013 before he really had his breakthrough season, netting nine goals during the final year of the pre-Caulfield era.
Injury has halted his progress since then but Morrissey showed glimpses of past promise last year at Finn Harps, netting five times in 21 league appearances for the relegated Donegal club. He will link up with many former teammates in Limerick and 2018 could be the year that he truly sets the league alight.
Limerick will be looking to add a few more new faces before the season begins away to Sligo. They are well-capable of putting out a very strong starting eleven, but beyond that the squad appears to lack depth and injuries to key players would undoubtedly upset what is already a relatively young side.
Bastien Hery’s move to Munster rivals Waterford was another blow but additions such as Eoin Wearen and Billy Dennehy should soften his loss somewhat in midfield. Goalkeeper Brendan Clarke offers a safe pair of hands but there are questions to be asked about the defence in front of him. Darren Dennehy will have to hit the ground running alongside Tony Whitehead.
Goals win games, as the saying goes, and last year the attacking pair of Ogbene and Brazilian striker Rodrigo Tosi accounted for 22 of Limerick’s 41 league goals. With Ogbene gone and Tosi’s future yet to be decided a lot is riding on the success of Morrissey and Ellis up front.
If they can perform then Limerick could look to beat their seventh place finish last time out. If not, then another relegation battle may be on the cards for Barrett’s men.
Pundit Arena prediction: 9th