The county’s well-known sporting benefactor, JP McManus – who has already donated millions to Limerick rugby and GAA and who began his career as a bookmaker at the Markets Field – is the man the city’s soccer supporters have to thank, after the Limerick Enterprise Development Partnership announced yesterday that it had reached agreement with Bord na gCon to acquire the stadium for a sum in excess of €1.5m in a deal bankrolled by the JP McManus Charitable Foundation.
The reaction at the club to the news was one of delight, with sources saying that it is hoped that Limerick can be back in the stadium in time for the start of the 2012 season. In the interim, considerable refurbishment – including the removal of the greyhound track – will be undertaken, with club officials confident that the new facilities will also act as a long-term boost to raising revenue through corporate sponsorship and other match-day events.
Ironically, it was in a bid to raise much-needed revenue that Limerick organised a proposed friendly against Barcelona last year which was blocked from going ahead by the FAI, leading to a dispute between the two parties which is now the subject of court-ordered arbitration.
Limerick, who will continue to play this season in Jackman Park, played at the Markets Field for almost 50 years until the early 1980s, and the prospect of a return to the club’s spiritual home will be an added incentive for manager Pat Scully and his players as they kick off the new season – away to Finn Harps tomorrow night – in search of promotion from the First Division.
Welcoming the news, Limerick chairman Pat O’ Sullivan said: “I wish to thank JP & Noreen McManus for their generosity without which this momentous day for Limerick sport could not have come about. Thegenerosity of the McManus family has been an inspiration and a source of wonderful support to many people and organisations throughout the region and we in Limerick FC, as a key part of the wider sporting community, are so grateful for this marvellous gesture.
“This is a huge responsibility and one that the club will not take lightly. We are first and foremost a community-based club and our wish is to create a club that the people of the Mid-West can have pride in. With the Markets Field as our home, not only can the club prosper on the national stage in the Airticity League but we can also encourage all people to embrace soccer as a means of encouraging inclusivity in society.”
Gerry Boland, director of Limerick Enterprise Development Partnership, said: “The generosity of the JP McManus Charitable Foundation made this dream come true and I am pleased to see Limerick AFC, now represented by Munster Football Club Limited, returning to its roots at the historic Markets Field.”