Thursday 14 December 2017

Limerick aim to light up Thomond in derby date

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

LIMERICK FC will begin life at Thomond Park with a Munster derby showdown against rivals Cork City.

The 2013 Airtricity League fixtures have been released by the FAI and the confirmation of Thomond as Limerick's base on their return to the Premier Division adds an interesting dimension to the new campaign.

Their current rented home at Jackman Park is unsuitable for top-flight football and owner Pat O'Sullivan is working towards a move back to a renovated Markets Field in 2014. They therefore needed a stopgap and a good relationship with the authorities at Thomond has opened the door to a ground share arrangement.

As it stands, Limerick will play most of their games on Friday nights, but there are some exceptions due to clashes with rugby dates. For example, they will host Bohemians on Tuesday, April 16 as Munster are due to host Leinster in the Pro12 on the previous weekend.

Now, the priority for Limerick is to drum up interest and attract fans to the 26,500-capacity venue. This is a big task for a club who regularly failed to reach the 1,000 mark in their lengthy spell in the second tier.

After sacking Pat Scully at the end of the season, they have embarked on a lengthy hunt for a high-profile boss to tie in with the promotional campaign to attract casual fans at this stage of their ambitious development. But they were knocked back by first choice Phil Brown and have met with a number of other candidates from both home and abroad. However, the process has taken far longer than they anticipated.

The visit of Cork should ensure a healthy opening day attendance, but Limerick will have to produce a strong showing to bring fans back for their second home game; the visit of UCD.

Stephen Kenny will also be in the spotlight on the opening day as he kicks off his reign as Dundalk boss by welcoming Shamrock Rovers to town. Kenny was sacked by the Hoops last September after a short unsuccessful reign and will relish the opportunity to lock horns with his permanent successor Trevor Croly – who has re-signed goalkeeper Richard Brush from Sligo.

Champions Sligo begin their defence in Derry, while European qualifiers St Patrick's Athletic and Drogheda United meet at Richmond Park. Bohemians host UCD and Bray clash with Shelbourne.

For the second season in succession, Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers face each other on the final day, with Tallaght the venue this time around.

The mid-season break takes place from June 17 to June 26, while promotion/relegation issues will follow the same intended plan as 2012, with the bottom Premier League side automatically going down and the 11th-placed team fighting for their future against the winner of a play-off between second and third in the First Division. Monaghan's decision to leave the league meant there was no automatic relegation this year.

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