Limerick aim to put defeat by St Pat’s behind them in rematch
EA Sports Cup final: Martin Russell’s side seek to wrap up outstanding season
Limerick manager Martin Russell: “The reason we have come out of the division is that we were the best-resourced side with the best crop of players.” Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho
EA Sports Cup Final: Limerick v St Patrick's Athletic, Market's Field, 5.30pm (Eir Sport 1)
It might be another sign that the spirit of the “post-truth society” is seeping into Irish soccer but on the eve of Limerick’s EA Sports Cup final against St Patrick’s Athletic, the club’s website seemed intent on pretending last month’s defeat by the same side in Inchicore didn’t happen.
Martin Russell does remember the 2-0 loss, though, and as the sides prepare to meet again this evening revenge will surely be one of the motivations for everyone at a club that has grown unfamiliar with defeat over the course of a near-flawless campaign to secure promotion back to the top flight at the first attempt.
“We’ve scored over 100 goals this year,” says the manager who has had strong links with the Richmond Park outfit over the years. “But listen, we’re not getting carried away because it’s all relative.
“The reason we have come out of the division is that we were the best-resourced side with the best crop of players and ultimately they’ve shown that they deserve to be playing in the Premier Division.
“We failed against Pats in Inchicore but this final being in the Markets Field has given everyone that added impetus. The ticket sales have gone well and everybody’s looking forward to it. It should be a good occasion for everyone; hopefully we can play a good game of football and come out on top.”
It would be a wonderful way to effectively wrap up an outstanding season for a club that seems to have successfully reconnected with the city’s population. The standard of opposition in the First Division may, as Russell suggests, put that long unbeaten league run in context. However, like their opponents today, they have overcome some serious tests – scoring seven goals without conceding in wins over Galway, Wexford and Derry after an initial win in Cobh – to reach this final. Winning it would bolster the general sense that they already have the makings of a very decent Premier Division outfit.
Liam Buckley’s side won this cup last year by beating Galway on their turf and despite the erratic nature of their results this season, they will fancy their chances of retaining it, particularly after that FAI Cup victory. That win, after a challenging first half, might well have been secured by a greater margin had it not been for Limerick goalkeeper Freddy Hall.
The Dubliners have beaten Dundalk, Bray and Shamrock Rovers (all away) to get here but have taken just one point from their last three league games and so there is a lingering sense that just about anything is possible on the day.
That is bound to encourage the hosts whose only doubt is John O’Flynn. Buckley will again be without David Cawley but Darren Dennehy, Shane McEleney and Conor O’Malley trained this week and all are said to be in contention for a game with the potential to deliver on the sense of occasion that the large crowd and restored venue will provide.