Thomond Park prepares for a whole new ball game

Airtricity League Premier Division: Limerick v Cork City
The round ball rather than the oval one takes centre stage at Thomond Park tomorrow when Limerick host Cork City in a much anticipated and exceptionally high-profile Munster derby.

The RTÉ cameras will be on hand to provide live coverage of the Airtricity League Premier Division game which marks the Shannonsiders’ return to the top flight after an absence of nearly 20 years.

It was Pat Scully who steered Limerick to automatic promotion by winning the First Division title last season but, after a period of considerable change at the club, new boss Stuart Taylor will be in charge for their first game back in the Premier Division. “Everyone is looking forward to Sunday,” says the Scot, “and you can’t start off with anything more exciting than a derby against Cork City. Cork have gone very well so far this season and it will be a great test. If we play the right way and everyone gives 100%, the results will follow, and we hope that is the case on Sunday. The supporters are so important to us and what we want to do here — we want to give them a team the whole Midwest can be proud of.”

Jeffrey Judge is recovering from illness and won’t be available for another two weeks while Dominic Foley faces a late fitness test to see if he is able to face Cork. Ahead of the game, Taylor has added to his squad with the signing of Patrick Nzuzi who impressed the manager during Limerick’s recent pre-season tour of Scotland.

Described as “a versatile, right-sided player who can play across the defence and midfield”, the former Newcastle United man goes straight into the panel for the game. Cork City have cut their competitive teeth this season with some winning performances to take them through to the Setanta Cup semi-finals, but manager Tommy Dunne sees the opening of the league campaign as a new ball game.

“We have had a decent pre-season, but that is behind us,” he says. “It is a tough match to start the season. Limerick will be a very strong outfit and I think they may be a surprise package this season. They have some good players, and Stuart Taylor has brought in some decent bodies. The first game of the season can be a difficult one, but we will give it everything and if we can get the three points, it would be a great start. We are going to have tough games every week, so the start of the season is hugely important. We are looking forward to the game, and I hope it is a really good spectacle for everyone.”

For the visitors, John Dunleavy remains sidelined with tonsillitis, while Brian Lenihan is a long-term absentee with a groin injury. Kalen Spillane returns to the squad from a Setanta Cup suspension, while Darren Dennehy, Colin Healy and Dan Murray are also available having missed the 3-1 victory against Crusaders in Belfast.

Today is also a significant one for football in Munster as Cobh Ramblers, after an absence of four years, make their return to senior football by hosting Wexford Youths at St Colman’s Park in the Airtricity League First Division. And the message from the club is that they are not there “just to make up the numbers”. A pre-season 3-2 win against Limerick coupled with a 1-1 draw with Cork City has increased optimism that Dave Hill’s side are on the right track, a feeling enhanced by the return to his old club from City of the gifted Davin O’ Neill. The game at St Colman’s kicks off at 7.45pm as does tonight’s other First Division fixture which sees Athlone Town hosting Mervue United.


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