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Markets Field return will bring the soul back to Limerick soccer

After 31 years away from Markets Field, Limerick FC return home tonight.

The 1,300 seater North Stand is ready tor tonight's kick-off.
The 1,300 seater North Stand is ready tor tonight's kick-off.

IT SHOULDN’T BE much to ask – a senior soccer team in a big city getting decent support.

That Limerick nut has been difficult to crack though, and many good men have been left frustrated trying to do so. Tight, compact grounds like Jackman Park and Hogan Park didn’t work. Thomond Park worked briefly, but never maintained the numbers coming through the turnstiles.

If it’s not facilities, maybe it’s the soul.

In the smallest lanes of the narrowest streets in the Treaty city, people speak of the Sunday afternoons they spent at Markets Field in Garryowen. It wasn’t just a source of entertainment, it was an institution. If so many people associate all their greatest memories of senior soccer with a particular ground, who could deny them the right to feel bitter when Limerick soccer left there in 1984?

4 The all-seater North Stand will host 1,300 fans. Source: Andrew Cunneen

Limerick have tried many ways to recapture the imagination of the public, but to no avail. The re-branding of Limerick as Limerick 37 was an initial success and with the development of the squad in the early part of 2007, it was an attractive proposition.

The Club reverted back to Limerick FC a couple of years later, before current chairman Pat O’Sullivan took over the running of the club.

He set about developing a youth system, building a base in Bruff and bringing senior soccer back to the Markets Field. The first two are important for structural and administrative purposes, but as League of Ireland clubs know only too well – your gate receipts are your meat and drink. The final leg of O’Sullivan’s three-part plan was the most crucial and the LEDP have delivered.

Walking through the venue on Thursday evening, it had all the bells and whistles of a Category 2 stadium, but perhaps most importantly, there was a sense of history about the place. It’s sometimes difficult to combine the two and have them working in tandem, but there’s something that raises the hairs on the back of your neck when you walk through those turnstile.

The ground itself is split into four. The North Stand is located on the Garryowen Road, while the ‘Popular side’ is directly opposite – just off the back of Limerick Senior College.

6 The view from the 'Popular side'. Source: Andrew Cunneen


The West Terrace is behind the goal, with the spire of St. John’s Cathedral piercing the night’s sky above it, while away supporters are located in the East Stand and Terrace.

7 The East Stand and terrace will be reserved for away support. Source: Andrew Cunneen

The North Stand holds just over 1,300 people. and although there are three or four seats with limited viewing in the upper right hand corner of the stand, for the most part, the views are superb and aren’t badly hindered by the poles.

8 The view from the press seats, located at the back of the North Stand. Source: Andrew Cunneen


The media area is located at the back of the stand, with ten spaces – complete with power sources and WiFi. There’s an executive area, two changing rooms for referees, a delegate’s room, a room fit for dope testing and sizeable home and away dressing rooms.

It’s still very much a work in progress and all parties admit that. There’s a huge clean-up to do, even before the big kick-off at 7.45 against Drogheda United, but even now, the venue does deliver a classy experience.

5 The tunnel and changing rooms under the North Stand. Source: Andrew Cunneen

President Michael D. Higgins – born in Limerick –  will be in attendance tonight as a guest of honour, and along with him, you’d hope for a bumper crowd, if not a sell-out.

The return to the Markets Field not only presents Limerick FC with a home, but it also provides so many Limerick people with the chance to revisit their youth in the ground that holds so many memories.

For the football club, it presents a chance to finally embed itself in the reasonably successful circle of sport that Limerick has on offer through hurling and rugby.

On the field, the venue should instil character into the team’s performance and to give them an idea of the city they’re playing for. To this point, I’m not sure players understood just what city they were representing because the football club has been so disconnected from the public for such a long time.

For Martin Russell’s men, the season starts now. For Limerick Football Club, they must contend with tackling the past and bringing it forward into the present.

After that, they can’t do any more.

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About the author:

Andrew Cunneen

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