Sunday 22 April 2018

Limerick in limbo after McDonald's abrupt exit

McDonald: “I had a fantastic time at Limerick even though it was a short period.” Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
McDonald: “I had a fantastic time at Limerick even though it was a short period.” Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Limerick's preparations for the new League of Ireland season have been thrown into disarray by the departure of manager Neil McDonald to become assistant boss of League One side Scunthorpe.

Players who reported for the Shannonsiders' first day of pre-season yesterday were shocked to learn that McDonald had opted to return to England.

Limerick duly released a statement which thanked the Geordie for his contribution to the club since joining last May, and it included quotes from McDonald.

"I had a fantastic time at Limerick even though it was a short period," he said. "I came to do a specific job - to help the club maintain its Premier status, to thin the squad out as it was top-heavy and to give the young players a chance - I'd like to think that I achieved all three."

Limerick owner Pat O'Sullivan said that they could deny their manager the opportunity to join a club that is strongly pushing for promotion from their division, with McDonald brought in to help boss Graham Alexander.

"The club and myself are naturally disappointed to be losing Neil," said O'Sullivan. "However, where there is potential for him to be in the English Championship next season, Limerick FC is more than happy to fully back Neil and support him in taking up this position."

However, it is understood that McDonald (pictured) held some reservations about Limerick's direction with the club facing some budgetary constraints heading into 2018.

He signed a two-and-a-half-year deal when he replaced Martin Russell last May and spoke of a long-term project, so the abrupt departure has set alarm bells ringing - particularly as Limerick have missed out on a number of transfer targets this winter.

At the moment, their first team squad consists of just 14 players and that includes some inexperienced youngsters.

Promising striker Chiedozie Ogbene is still under contract and he spent time training at Chelsea in the off-season in addition to being linked with a move to Aston Villa. The 20-year-old could prove to be a valuable commodity for Limerick in their current situation.

That said, the club have still been speaking with potential acquisitions, with young Cork attacker Conor Ellis in discussions with Limerick officials about following the same route as Ogbene.

Meanwhile, Bray should confirm today that a number of key players who endured a turbulent 2017 have penned new deals but Bohemians have shelled out a small fee to re-sign Keith Buckley.

Buckley was one of five players under contract to Bray but was desperate to return to Dalymount and Bohs - who sold midfielder Fuad Sule to Barnet over Christmas - have moved to bring back Buckley in a deal that could see fringe squad members go the other way.

New Bray boss Dave Mackey has made progress on contracts for Gary McCabe, Conor Kenna, Peter Cherrie and Hugh Douglas although players are still looking for assurances about the club's financial position. Free agent Paul O'Conor is also set to sign with the Seagulls after leaving St Pat's.

Shamrock Rovers have strengthened their squad by signing 22-year-old Scottish defender Ally Gilchrist from St Johnstone.

The departure of Waterford striker Aaron Drinan to Ipswich has been formally completed. Drinan has been training with Ipswich since October and has signed a three-and-a-half-year deal with hopes high he can break into Mick McCarthy's plans.

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