Limerick confirmed the departure of Martin Russell on Monday by mutual consent, making him the first managerial casualty of the new League of Ireland season.
The 49-year-old has left Markets Field after almost three years at the club, and although it is being painted as a mutual decision, it seems more likely that Russell has paid the price for Limerick’s perceived poor start to the season, winning twice in their opening six games and going down 3-0 to Premier Division leaders Cork City at home last Friday.
The Super Blues ran away with the First Division last year, which may have in, turn led to raised expectations this season. Outside of a thumping 5-1 opening day victory against Sligo Rovers, those expectations have not been met and Russell has been made the fall guy.
Attention now turns to who will replace the former UCD boss. With Limerick in seventh in the table currently, the right man could yet steer them into the top six finish that the board seem to be demanding.
So who could be in the running to take the reins at Markets Field? (And, to get it out of the way early, ex-Man United midfielder Andrei Kanchelskis’s main mission in life these days seems to be to get a League of Ireland job so expect him to apply.)
Arguably the most successful manager in Sligo Rovers’ history could still have unfinished business in the League of Ireland. Having guided the Bit o’ Red to their first league title in 35 years in 2012, and following it up with an FAI Cup win the following year, Baraclough was shown the door unceremoniously in June 2014, an unpopular decision at the time.
Since then the 46-year-old has had a tough spell at Motherwell, taking over midway through the 2014/15 season and ultimately guiding the club to Premiership safety, but resigning just eight games into the next season. Currently John Sheridan’s assistant at Oldham, it remains to be seen if he can be tempted back with an offer of management in the Premier Division again, but Limerick could do far worse.
It may have ended badly for Dunne at Galway United last year (and, indeed, at Cork City three years previously) but there is an argument to be made that the former Shamrock Rovers defender is an effective “short-term bounce” kind of manager. City’s First Division win in 2011 and Galway’s promotion in 2014 and run to the EA Sports Cup final in 2015 add some credence to this argument, though doubts remain regarding his methods in the longer run.
He worked with current Limerick captain Shane Duggan at Turners Cross, though whether or not this would have any bearing on a decision remains to be seen.
One of the more interesting social media rumours doing the rounds in the wake of Russell’s departure, was that a potential managerial team of Boland and Tommy Barrett couuld be under consideration to take charge of the first team. Boland, along with Joe Gamble and Eddie Hickey, will be in the dugout for the side’s clash with St. Pat’s this weekend.
Both men have certainly gone about their coaching careers the right way so far. Boland has been Limerick’s academy director since November 2015 and was earmarked then as a potential manager in the future. Former Super Blues captain Barrett meanwhile, has been studying for his UEFA Pro Licence, which he is due to complete in 2018.
It would be an intriguing experiment, but it would also carry a huge risk – and with Limerick determined to avoid relegation for the second time in three years, they may not want to take a risk.
If certain rumours in Dublin are to be believed then Doolin has been hovering over the Shamrock Rovers job like Stephen Bradley’s personal beacon of doom, but he may yey get sick of waiting for the spot at Tallaght to open up and instead apply for another job.
Without a job since leaving his post at the Ireland under-19 side after six years, the former Drogheda United boss enjoyed enough success at United Park for his candidacy to be taken seriously should it come to that, though it would be interesting to see how quickly he would re-adapt to the club game having been out of it for so long.
With a contract that runs up to the end of 2018 and leading a Cobh Ramblers side very much in the mix for promotion, Limerick would have a massive job in prising Henderson away from St. Colman’s Park. The fact that only one team will go up this year may have worked in their favour later on in the year, but Henderson will still feel very confident of going up at Waterford’s expense so this one would be a non-starter unless the manager’s head was turned in a big way.
The unwritten rule of any vacant League of Ireland job is that Roddy Collins’ name must be mentioned at least once, however unlikely he is to actually get it.