United we stand: Fresh start in Limerick

United we stand: Fresh start in Limerick
Interim chairman Conn Murray, Limerick coach Irene Hehir, and academy manager Tommy Barrett at the launch of the newly-formed Limerick United yesterday. Picture: Arthur Ellis.

Limerick United will provide a “bottom up” reboot of football in the region, according to the interim chairman of the new club and former chief executive of Limerick and City Council, Conn Murray.

The newly formed Limerick United was launched yesterday and will concentrate on developing a best-in-class football nursery for the city and neighbouring counties.

Limerick United will begin as a footballing academy for U13, U15, U17, and U19 boys and will also have representation in the Women’s National Senior League.

The aim is to have a senior men’s side return to the League of Ireland in 2021; however, if that is not possible, a decision to re-enter the League of Ireland will not be rushed.

The newly formed club were adamant that if they do re-enter the League of Ireland, they will do so on an amateur or semi-professional basis.

“Today is the beginning of a new era for football in Limerick,” announced Murray. “We are going to focus on what every club or sporting organisation does when it hits a low, and that is on our youth.

“If you look at the top teams, clubs, counties, or provinces in and sport, you will see pretty much everything point back to a moment in time where they put the focus on developing their young talent.

“That’s what we are doing now with the establishment of Limerick United. We are going to develop one of the best young footballing academies in Ireland.

“This will not happen overnight but will be a gradual and sustainable development that, by the time we get Limerick United achieving its full potential, the structures will be in place to keep it there.

“We are very realistic in terms of the challenges faced by football, not just here but across the country. I have seen it in Waterford, Dundalk, and Drogheda. All have seen good days but they have seen tough days too, no question about that.

“What we are trying to do is start as sustainable growth relative to League of Ireland soccer here in Limerick. The ambition (for a senior men’s team) is 2021, but if someone tells me that is too ambitious, I will listen.”

Murray added that the club will be based in the Markets Field and that former Limerick FC manager Tommy Barrett will head up the club’s Academy.

Barrett endured a tough time as manager of the now defunct Limerick FC, during which he had to deal with mass exodus of players due to wages not being paid and other, well-documented issues.

“They were a tough two years, it makes you more resilient," said Barrett. "There were positives too. We can’t take away from that. There was a lot of lads that got there debuts and went on to bigger and better things during my time there.”

Barrett said that he is excited about the formation of a new club, but was keen to point out that the hard work is only now beginning.

“We have to try and get in the best players that we can and produce players, that’s the main thing. I’m really excited by the prospect, particularly with identifying the coaches we are bringing in.

“We have to maximise our efforts now in getting the best coaches and developing our players properly. In fairness, the players have come through in the past and we will look to continue that and even improve on it.”

The club says will be based at the Markets Field and are in talks with the University of Limerick about basing their training at the college.

They added that they will speak to the Limerick Institute of Technology and junior clubs in the locality about using their facilities as well.

Barrett was also unequivocal in shutting down any talk of re-entering a senior men’s team on a professional basis when that time arises and that semi-professional or amateur is the only way to go.

“I think we have got to go that way. Obviously, you want to be a professional set up. I know people want to win and want to support winning teams.

“Last year’s team with Limerick FC, we started quite well with a young team. There is potential and lads around this region. It’s now time to move on and see if we can harness that talent.

“There are enough business and enough support in this region to sustain Academy teams and I would say a men’s team as well.

“We have the whole region here. North Tipperary, Limerick city and county, Clare. We have so many leagues feeding into us that we can get that support.

“I think there should be enough support, but you have to do things right. We have to build trust as well. I have faith in these guys (Limerick United board) and I hope we can do that.”

Meanwhile, Limerick FC has launched High Court proceedings against the FAI over what the club claims is its exclusion from participating in the League of Ireland.

The club brought proceedings against the FAI over the association's alleged failure to invite Limerick to submit an application for a licence to allow it play in the 2020 League of Ireland First Division.

Limerick, which late last year was the subject of a failed examinership process, claims the FAI is bound under its own rules to invite the club to submit an application.

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