Limerick FC Return to Markets Field?

Back to the future for local soccer club

Limerick FC are poised to return to the Markets Field according to media reports.

The greyhound (furry bingo) crowd moved out of the ground last summer and are hot in pursuit of electronic hares at their spanking new stadium on the Dock Road.

In a radical departure from tradition, Bord na gCon have decreed that humans will be legging it after low-voltage cuniculus on the outskirts of the Treaty city whilst the greyhounds get lock jawed at the bar and drop the mortgage payments on the tote.

Sports philanthropist JP McManus, my mate, although for some reason he never returns my calls, bought the 5.3-acre Markets Field site and will make it available for Limerick FC.   JP is down to his last 30 million on account of the economy. How will he, er,  Gloria Gaynor?

Limerick fans appear to be all in favour of the move and there is no doubt that Senior football on Shannonside needs a permanent home.

The club presently ply their trade at Jackman Park, formerly called Priory Park, a ground where I missed a volley from point-blank range against a goalkeeper with a cast in both eyes who admitted that he had hand-to-eye coordination issues with anything that was moving, round and made of leather.

I, on the other hand, was a pacy striker with an unfortunate eye for the roof of the stand. The Lower Carey’s Road venue, the headquarters of Junior football in Limerick, will never be home for Limerick FC, though.

The Super Blues changed their name back to Limerick FC from Limerick 37 (the year the club was founded) last season. The BBC, the propaganda hub for Islamic Jihad in Europe, was the first to fuck up with the 37 moniker in their classified results.

It read: Limerick 37 Finn Harps 0.  They must have some strikers on Shannonside our neighbours across the water may have been thinking. My suggestion for the following fell on deaf ears – Limerick (37) 0 Finn Harps 0. Then again, that could be construed as the first-leg score in a two-legged tie.

The younger generation of football fans in Limerick, heroically resisting the urge to abandon the beautiful game and genuflect at the corporate Cathedral to rugby on the Northside, have grown up with yarns of the glory days of the Markets Field, League titles, European sojourns, Donkey Ford’s cardiac-arrest-inducing battered sausages – and a fine team.

I recall a Limerick FC winger attempting a cross – a feat in itself as the wretch couldn’t cross a cheque – from the right and the Limerick FC striker dropping a Shamrock Rovers defender with a head butt. The centre never made it as a full-back cut it out at the expense of a corner.

That incident can be explained in a story I was told recently about sheep. A farmer in Cork, who, after I told him I was from Limerick, replied; “sure, once you have your health that’s the main thing”, told me that he knocked down a small wall which his sheep used to jump over en route to being processed into doner kebabs.

However, despite the fact that the wall is now gone, the sheep still jump over that exact spot where the structure was. They amble daintily across the field, and, after pausing briefly to throw suggestive glances at passing motorists, take a flying leap into the air over a non-existent wall. Ewe should travel down to West Cork, skin up a bamboozler and get a load of that.

Likewise, with the Limerick FC striker. Anticipating the cross, his head was poised for the strike, muscle memory then took over and he gave the defender, to use Limerick vernacular, a shower of dandruff.

There were many other great moments at the Markets Field of course, and the last time we won the league was out of that ground in 1981.

And what a team; Joe O’Mahony, Brendan Storan, Pat Nolan, Johnny Walsh, Des Kennedy, Ger Duggan, Johnny Matthews, Eoin Hand, Kevin Fitzpatrick and more. The late Tony Meaney slotted home the penalty that won the title versus Athlone that season.

Des Kennedy has the distinction – I’m going out on a limb here but if anyone can prove me wrong please do – of being the only player to score home and away against the mighty Real Madrid in the European Cup.

Madrid, the spawn of our beloved General Franco, got to the final that year and lost 1-0 to Liverpool, and it was another Kennedy, Alan, who scored the winner. The Spaniards conceded one other goal in the semi-final. If memory serves ’twas an Italian who netted in that last four clash.

Kennedy hit the jackpot against the la Liga giants in Lansdowne Road – the first leg was taken to Dublin to maximise profits, a shameful decision which alienated a sizeable percentage of Limerick supporters to this day – and in the Bernabeau.

Johnny Matthews also scored at Lansdowne Road but his effort was ruled out by a bastard linesman on a dodgy offside call. That call denied Matthews a “Holy Trinity” hat-trick as he had scored against Man United and Celtic.

Great days indeed at the Markets Field and beyond. Does anyone remember the two auld hecklers in the popular side? Their catch cry once they took a dislike to anyone – and they hated everything that walked or crawled on this earth – was: “he couldn’t kick snow off a rope!”or for unfortunate wingers: “You couldn’t cross the road !”

The great Kevin Fitzpatrick cried off injured one day and the reserve keeper – I won’t mention his name – was between the sticks.

With just ten minute gone he burst forth from his line again and somehow managed to fist a cross back into the roof of his own net. That howler reduced the entire ground to a stunned silence. You could hear the saturninity out at the Treaty Stone.

“Take him off and put on no one – he’s crossing the heart sideways on us,” fumed one of the hecklers, articulating our outrage. “He wouldn’t catch a bag of glue,” ranted the other.

“Take the fucker off, he’s only a cunt. He’s taken after his mother,” roared the net minder’s father.

Limerick sports fans, objective to the last.

Meantime, this was one keeper who was never going to have his name included in a sentence containing the words clean and sheet.

But at least he was spared the ignominy of pulling himself off in front of 48,000 people – as Jimmy Magee once commented after John Giles, the then player/manager of Ireland, substituted himself during an international game.

Glory days indeed. Limerick FC Chairman Pat O’Sullivan has vowed to bring back those glory days.   O’Sullivan said their ultimate goal was to turn the new Markets Field into an 8,000-seat venue at the heart of a rejuvenation scheme.

According to the Irish Times – who go to extraordinary lengths to ignore the First Division – the spending is likely to be focused initially on the likes of a high-quality astro-turf pitch, floodlighting and changing facilities so as to maximise the potential usage of the facility by the city’s wider population.

“We’ll assess what needs to be done and a priority will certainly be to ensure that the ground meets the requirements of the FAI’s licensing scheme but our plans go well beyond that,” O’Sullivan was quoted as saying.

“We see the ground as a tool for community development. We hope that the Markets Field can become a focal point for young people who can go on to become leaders in our community, we want it to be an asset for all the people of the city. That’s what a club and its home should be and if it is, I firmly believe, then the rest will follow.”

“JP is a man who has always been supportive and I think this sort of thing is personal for him. I’m so pleased and grateful that he has made this tremendously generous donation, added O’Sullivan, a man who, along with the Limerick FC Board of Directors, has a very positive impact on the club since he took over a few years ago.

The club are now on an even keel following the false dawns of the last decade – one of which ended up with a Limerick FC Chairman taking out an injunction against the FAI in the High Court – live well within their means and have a good manager in Pat Scully. The First team are a hard working squad, always give 100%, although it would be fair to say that we lack quality.

O’Sullivan and Board were behind last year’s aborted Limerick versus Barcelona friendly at Thomond Park.  Barca had agreed to the match – their fee is one million doubloons.  Everything was in place.

However, in one of the most shameful decisions in the long and often ignoble history of Irish football, the FAI stepped in and stopped the game going ahead.  Here was a club, in the teeth of the worst recession to hit this country since its foundation, showing tremendous ambition to get one of the biggest clubs in the world to come to Shannonside.

In short, they were showing exactly the sort of innovation and imagination that we need to get this country out of this mess – but the FAI were having none of that. We could be going on all day here – let’s just call it Irish football’s GUBU moment, comparable in its stupidity, ignorance and sheer pig-headedness to forfeiting home advantage for the World Cup play off with Spain and playing the game in Paris for 30 pieces of silver in 1965.

I reckon that O’Sullivan and crew are doing the business and deserve our support. They’ve steadied the ship and are building the house from the ground up, as opposed to the other way around.

Limerick presently occupy 5th berth in the First Division, the Discover Ireland league as it is wryly referred to by football fans.

Meanwhile, Munster have proved that if you provide good facilities and quality opposition the crowds will follow. However, you can have the best facilities in the world but if you’re hosting teams that would struggle in Division 1A of Limerick’s Junior League then the crowds will stay at home.

Going back to the future and returning to the Markets Field is a positive move, but it is just one side of the coin. The other is our 17-year exile from the Premier Division.

Limerick FC need to get back into Ireland’s top flight.

A brief history of the Markets Fields.

*THE first recorded use of the Markets Field for sporting purposes was in 1886 when the Irish Cycling Association, GAA and Irish Dwarf Tossing Association used the venue for events.

Over the next 50 years it became a major venue for sport, including athletics and other activities in the city – such as having Ireland’s only recorded pogrom against our fellow Shannonsiders of the Jewish faith – with the GAA using it for county finals and intercounty matches and general muck savagery. Garryowen FC, a firm favourite with the vast majority of rugby fans in the city and county to this day, called the Markets Field home.

The All Blacks played Munster at the ground in 1905, the visitors winning 33-0.  One of their tries was a penalty try after a Munster player, probably a Cookie, “legged” an All Black, “galloping with gay abandon for the line,” as one report put it.  Proper order.

By the late 1920s, the GAA were developing the Gaelic Grounds – and speech therapy sessions for captains dribbling out of both sides of their mouths in Gaelic during after-match orations. Following their departure, the stadium hosted its first greyhound race in 1932.  Because Bórd na gCon couldn’t afford an electronic hare at the time, the dogs used to chase Fianna Fail politicians and Shannon RFC fans around the track.

This proved to be hugely popular with Shannonsiders until a canine bit a relative of Brian Cowen’s and fell fatally ill, going forward.

Five years later, Limerick FC moved into Markets Field and the club won its first trophy, the Munster Senior Cup, in its first season in senior football.  Garryowen FC relocated to Dooradoyle in 1957 and Limerick headed for Rathbane in 1984, changing their colours from traditional blue and white to a horrific green and yellow, Norwich City-type attire.

Bórd na gCon, which owned the Markets Field, left it for the purpose-built track at Greenpark last year and now Limerick FC look set to return.

17 thoughts on “Limerick FC Return to Markets Field?

  1. I wonder how the betting is going, out in the far east, carried out via mobile phone.
    I asked my brother about that one Seconds.. I just got a queer look.
    Thanks. ha

  2. excellent piece there mr. out

    i remember ” we hate athlone and we bate athlone” and the never ending ” one owen hand, there’s only one …… ”

    born in dublin – i was always an outsider and was never loved but the ultras

    do you know i had to pay 3 european pounds to see my kid play above in jackman this season – i should have asked for a receipt .

    that missed volley – that was before your soujourn with depotive la coruna ? yes ?

  3. Priory Park: now that’s a memory. I played cricket there in the late 60s.

  4. Priory Park used to belong to the Jesuits, was the sports ground for Crescent College back in the day.

    Sniffle the Munster Branch charge €5 to watch an U14 league / final in LIT again no receipt. It was the custom to have all finals in Thomond Park before rugby was taken over by the Stags and their cloned Red Army.

  5. Yes Mr Sniffle I signed with Deportiva after that howler, three year deal with options. Suffered an ankle injury
    in my first game and they loaned me out to Prospect Priory (D).

    Scored two goals for Balla in Priory, lost both games.

    Meantime, the best of luck to Pike Rovers in the upcoming FAI Junior Cup final with St Michaels of Tipp in Turners Cross.

  6. If the media could not cope with Limerick 37, you would wonder how they managed with FC Schalke when they scored more or less than four.

    It’s good to see Limerick soccer returning to happier days. I followed Bray Wanderers for a decade when I lived in Dublin and remember one match at the Carlisle Grounds when Limerick were hard pressed to field a team; I think the reserve keeper played as a forward. It was a disgrace that the FAI so much sat on funds that soccer in the country’s third city was brought so low.

  7. Look at how much the GAA (and IRFU) have put into developing their sports and contrast it with the state of Irish soccer. How much is the chief executive of the FAI paid? His salary alone would provide funding for ground development!

  8. Anybody know did the Markets Fields, The Limerick Docks and other resources established for the benefit of the citizens of Limerick end up in private ownership?

  9. God only knows CP. I recall – as Ian points out above – Lims struggling to field a team, desperate days. The have an excellent set up now though, Youth teams, a Youth academy etc, etc.

    Off topic – did anyone notice that after John Higgins won the World snooker title recently that someone in RTE felt compelled to slip in a sly line mentioning that he was the son of Alex “The Hurricane” Higgins….. It was up for a while and then taken down, pronto – mainly because The Hurricane isn’t his fucking father.

    He might have been his father though.They both have the same surname and play snooker don’t they? Let’s slip it into a match report on the World snooker final, just in case, going forward.

    Legends. Tune in next week for an exclusive with ex Beatles drummer Pete Best. He’d be George Best’s old man, right?

  10. Seconds, Are you sure it wasn’t ‘De Botteella de corona’ you played with, before moving onto top of the league side ‘De Botteella de la tequila’ in mid session… I mean season.
    That move mid season would certainly have contributed to the severe ankle injury you sustained during your brief career abroad.

  11. Why did you hate Athlone Town (or De Town as it is known in the locality), sniffle? De Town bears no ill will towards Limerick unless it moves several miles in the Longord Town direction. Or form a secret alliance with AC Milan.

    Bout time Limerick moved to a decent pitch.

  12. Yep, getting the crowd back is the key – but the great Joe O’Mahony once said that he played in front of less than 200 at the MF – and what point are you making, well, maybe we’re looking at the MF with rose tinted glasses. Someone told me the other night at there was a riot there once and the people that started it were galloping around the greyhound track on horses, the Gardai following them on foot. Over in England it was the other way around. They do everything arseways those English, don’t they?

    I have a 40 year contract signed with that crowd Mr LJS

  13. The Market’s Field was great. Does anyone remember a guy called Skippy who played for Limerick?
    Australian, I think? Anyway Skippy was fairly low in stature. After throwing a quick ball to a team mate. The team mate headed the ball back in his direction. Unfortunately the header back was a little too high for skippy and the ball skimmed off his forehead and back into touch. The whole stand fell around the place laughing. Golden days boy! Saw some fantastic matches at the Field. Got Georgie Bests autograph as a nipper in the Markets Field.

  14. Congrats to Pike Rovers – they claimed their first FAI Junior Cup at Turners Cross, Cork today following a 2-1 win over Tipp side St Michael’s.

    Alan Barry and captain Keith Hartnett – with a dramatic, spectacular, brilliant, stunning, 30-yard, 89th minute free-kick, netted for Pike.

    Hats off to one of Limerick’s oldest and most distinguished football clubs.

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