We’re at that stage of the season again. Managers’ team talks will vary a lot, depending on respective situations. Pat Scully will be looking to disregard any psychological reasoning, while Waterford boss Paul O’Brien will be doing exactly the opposite. Tony Cousins faces the biggest task of them all, while Tony Mannion and Johnny Glynn can fortunately use pride as their motivation in the dressing room. It’s all to play for in Ireland’s second tier.
Limerick sit at the peak of the First Division table, albeit, after a rather intensive scare last Friday night at Jackman Park. A late Dominic Foley goal secured a three point gap over second placed Longford Town. This might suggest Pat Scully is feeling the pressure, but it doesn’t matter in the slightest, once Scully prevents those nerves from reaching his players. It’s a very simple formula for Limerick – win nine games out of ten, and you win the league. Pat Scully won’t pay attention to recent form, or Limerick’s horrific record against Waterford United, the Kildare native will be telling his players to take one game at a time. It is, after all, in their hands.
Waterford United are the form team in the division. They hold a massive hoodoo over leaders and Munster rivals, Limerick. There is an awful lot of belief in the Blues camp and the players and coaching staff can feel it. Waterford need to ride this wave of euphoria to the finish line, if at all possible. Young prospect Sean Maguire looks set to spark serious interest from England, which can only improve his performances. Gary Dempsey is a veteran of this league, and knows how to keep his cool; a trait that will be useful when calming the nerves of some of the younger members of the squad. Paul O’Brien will be making sure that his players are riled up going into every game; believing that they can catch Limerick – a direct contrast to what will be going on at Jackman Park.
Tony Cousins has a massive task on his hands. The only thing you can be guaranteed in any given league campaign, is a bad spell. It seems Longford have finally hit their bad patch after such a glorious run of results in the first fifteen games of the season. Cousins will not only feel the pressure on himself to produce results, he now has to re-group and get his players to turn over a new leaf, and start again from scratch. Whether he has the time to do that or not, is anyone’s guess.
The next mini-division comprises of another three teams; Athlone Town, Wexford Youths and Finn Harps. All three sides would have fancied their chances of snatching a playoff spot no more than four weeks ago, but given the recent run of form from Waterford United, and individual slip-ups, the chasing pack look to have lost any steam they had established earlier on in the year. In the race for fourth, Athlone hold a five point advantage over fifth placed Wexford, and a seven point cushion over Harps. No side will be happy with a fourth place spot, given the structure of the division this year.
Local pride takes over at the foot of the division. Mervue and SD Galway battle it out to avoid carrying the burden of being the bottom side. Mervue are playing good football, they just seem to be struggling to be clinical enough in front of goal, while their traditional rivals from junior football, SD Galway (formerly Salthill Devon), seem to try and suffocate teams and knick a goal in the process. The absence of Mikey Gilmore greatly hampers the latter’s goalscoring ambitions. Mervue hold a four point advantage and have a much better goal difference. Devon have it all to do.
Ten games left in the division. Just ten. It has now become a sprint to the finish. Will your team have the bottle to make it over the line?
Andrew joined Extratime for the 2010 season and covers all the on-goings down in Limerick. Having first experienced the League of Ireland in 2002, Andrew became hooked, even at such an early age. He is currently studying English and New Media at the University of Limerick. You can contact him via Twitter @Cunneen92.