The lifting of court protection for Limerick FC brings to an end the club’s decade-long association with businessman Pat O’Sullivan, who today claimed to have put between €6m and €7m into the club since his first involvement in 2009.
His provision of funding to the club that year was followed by a takeover in 2010, and hopes for a new era in Limerick football subsequently saw years of mixed fortunes on and off the pitch.
Promotion to the Premier Division in 2013 led to two consecutive respectable finishes in mid-table.
However the 2015 season began with an ominous warning from Mr O’Sullivan, who issued a statement cautioning that “the club must now learn to live within its means” and that funding from the O’Sullivan family and his Galtee Fuels business “can no longer continue to fund the club to the level that they have in the past number of seasons”.
Relegation followed that season, and despite bouncing back to Premier Status in 2017, Limerick dropped back to the First Division in 2018. That year also saw Mr O’Sullivan’s Galtee Fuels business go into voluntary liquidation.
2019 started with another false promise of a new dawn. A proposed takeover group said it had a “gentleman’s agreement” to take over the club in February, but pulled out of a deal in April.
That coincided with news that players were going without wages, after which the proposed investors said they “have been unable to come to an amicable agreement with the club to pursue a takeover".
“Regrettably we feel the terms and valuation put forward to us are unworkable and our belief is that the valuation of the club is unreasonable," a statement from the group read.
A week later the club said it was “ at an advanced stage of negotiations with an investment group” led by former League of Ireland manager Sean Connor.
“Sean has significant experience in League of Ireland and we look forward both to working with him and to the completion of this deal in the coming days. It will bring certainty and structure to the club’s affairs and will alleviate the current stresses around the club. We believe that the future of the club is bright. The new investors believe in Limerick FC and in The City of Limerick,” a statement read.
However, this deal also fell by the wayside. In September the High Court appointed an examiner to the club, despite opposition by the Revenue Commissioners. The court had heard that there were eight expressions of interest in a takeover. However, again, nothing came of these.
By the end of the season in October, Limerick was hit with a 26 point deduction for going into examinership, meaning it finished 2019 at the bottom of the First Division.
Today, as Limerick’s demise was all but confirmed, Mr O’Sullivan hit out at the FAI and said the way he had been treated by the Association was “scandalous”.
The charge contrasts with the statement Mr O’Sullivan issued last April in support of former FAI CEO John Delaney.
“In his time as CEO, we have had well publicised arguments over certain decisions taken by the FAI. However, we have a professional working relationship with John and all other FAI departments. Any request for advice or assistance is always supported,” the statement read.