A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today
First Division champions in 2016, Limerick FC were liquidated three years later. Relegated in 2018, the Super Blues were deducted 26 (!) league points for financial irregularities, sending the club to the bottom of the First Division and into a tailspin.
Revived as Treaty United in 2020, the former Limerick FC were granted a licence to rejoin the First Division in 2021, making the play-offs but losing out to UCD despite nearly levelling the aggregate in Dublin.
On the plus side, the Shannonsiders are based at Markets Field, the spiritual home of football in Limerick. Their predecessors, having been away from the ground for over 30 years, had moved back in as the anchor tenant in 2015 after a €4.5 million redevelopment.
This was seen as a huge investment in a football club whose home town is rugby mad – and whose last league title was won back in 1980.
Founded in 1937, Limerick often struggled to bring in consistent revenue. Name changes – City, United, 37 – reflect frequent financial disarray. But, unlike at Munster rivals Cork, there was always one soccer club representing Limerick.
Challenging for honours from the 1940s onwards, Limerick FC won a first League of Ireland title in 1960. A mean defence allowed Sonny Price’s side to nip in above rivals Cork Celtic on the last day of the season. Rugby arena Thomond Park was the stage for the second-half whitewash of the Super Blues by Young Boys Berne, a 5-0 home defeat a painful introduction to the European Cup.
Ewan Fenton, a member of Blackpool’s FA Cup winning side in the famous Matthews Final of 1953, was duly brought in as player/manager. The Dundee-born right-half practically transformed football in Limerick, on and off the pitch. Still in his early thirties, Fenton could still show his class on match day while nurturing a whole generation of players through the season. Al Finucane was only 18 when Fenton arrived but developed into a top-class defender and Irish international who was still playing major European fixtures when nearly 44.
Limerick made two consecutive FAI Cup finals in the mid 1960s, Fenton running out for the Super Blues against a very strong CSKA Sofia team who would soon provide a quarter of Bulgaria’s squad at the 1966 World Cup.
After a three-year spell at Linfield, Fenton returned, taking Limerick to the FAI Cup win of 1971. Captained by Finucane, a team featuring Andy McEvoy, seeing out his career after a prolific decade at Blackburn, beat Drogheda 3-0 in a replayed midweek game, Scot Hughie Hamilton netting two. A late three goals in the second leg by a decent Torino side skewed an aggregate 5-0 scoreline in the subsequent European fixture.
Fenton bowed out with a League Cup win in 1976. Arriving three years later, Eoin Hand took up Fenton’s mantle as a great player/manager. After a successful career at Portsmouth, the Irish international utility player achieved immediate results at Markets Field, losing only three games and scoring 67 in a 30-game campaign that ended with a league title.
Hand was immediately given the Ireland job, his first game in charge against world champions Argentina and Diego Maradona. Menotti’s men came away with just a 1-0 win.
Still balancing club and country commitments, Hand then prepared for another showcase fixture at Lansdowne Road: Limerick against Real Madrid. Pitching himself in against the likes of Juanito, Lawrie Cunningham and Uli Stielike, Hand had his men leading the Spanish champions 1-0 until the 70th minute when Real struck back. A 2-1 first-leg loss turned into a 7-2 aggregate defeat at the Bernabéu.
The following year, Southampton were the visiting side for the first European fixture played at Markets Field. Kevin Keegan, Alan Ball and Mick Channon all starred in a 3-0 win. Limerick then gave a creditable showing at The Dell for a 1-1 draw. Winning the FAI Cup in 1982, Hand’s Limerick then saved their best European performance for the club’s most recent one to date, a 2-1 aggregate defeat to AZ Alkmaar.
Hand’s departure to lead Ireland full-time from 1983 signalled a slow decline at Limerick, halted for two bright seasons under Billy Hamilton of Spain 1982 fame. The decade was otherwise characterised by ownership battles in court and a move from Markets Field to unloved Hogan Park south-east of town.
Accepting his first coaching post, later disgraced England manager Sam Allardyce took Limerick back up to the Premier in 1992, but success was short-lived. Within ten years, Limerick were running out on a district-league pitch at Crossagalla, home of Pike Rovers.
Limerick FC were effectively folded at the end of 2006 and Limerick 37 set up in their place. In 2009, they reverted to the name of Limerick FC.
In 2011, Markets Field was purchased by a local enterprise development body, and it was only a matter of time, and money, as to when Limerick would be back. Moving to Thomond Park in anticipation, the Super Blues prepared for the big move in June 2015 with a losing streak that led to a narrow, late relegation play-off loss to Finn Harps.
With 86 goals scored and only one defeat, Limerick returned to the Premier with a bang in 2016. Their stay would be brief – and end in dissolution.
The field of dreams – and the stands around it
Redeveloped and reopened in 2015, Markets Field is back in service as the prime football ground in Limerick after an absence of 30 years.
Staging earlier home European ties elsewhere then hosting the likes of Kevin Keegan and Alan Ball here for Southampton’s visit in 1981, this venue dating back to the late 1880s was even abandoned by the greyhound racing fraternity in 2009.
The €4.5 million rebuild has created a 3,000-capacity stadium with one main North Stand – all-seated with terracing to the side – and revived the Popular Side terrace opposite.
Away supporters are allocated the West Terrace, backdropped by Ireland’s tallest church tower atop St John’s Cathedral.
Going to the ground – tips and timings
Markets Field is on Garryowen Road, conveniently close to Colbert station. Exit the station right, then right again after 250 metres down Sexton Street. Follow it to the end – at the junction, head for The Horse & Hound bar, then keep going down Mulgrave Street, turning first left into Rossa Avenue. The ground is at the other end, turning right into Garryowen Road. Allow 15mins.
It wouldn’t be more than €6 in a taxi.
Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much
Online sales are for season tickets only.
Admission is paid on the night, €15 to sit in the North Stand, €12 to stand on the Popular Side and, for away supporters, on the West Terrace. Seniors and students pay an across-the-board €10, under-12s €5.
Corporate seats are available for €20 and €13 respectively, under-12s charged €7.
Away fans have their own ticket outlet on a corner of Mulgrave Street.
what to buy
Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts
On match nights, a club shop is set up near the main stand, with a modest selection of shirts, scarves and baseball caps. Note that Treaty United abandoned Limerick’s colours for red-and-white stripes, keeping blue for the second kit.
Where to Drink
Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors
The classic pre-match meeting spot is Jerry O’Dea’s Bar at 17 Mulgrave Street, known to sponsor occasional matches and organise meet-the-players sessions with fans.
Closer to the Markets Field, and somewhat more rough and ready, The Track Bar on Greenhill/Garryowen Road is a hangover from the days when there was greyhound racing at the ground. Next door, busy Fuscoe’s is ideal for pre-match chips.
If you’re looking for a quieter pre- or post-match pint, then the Square Bar at 6 St John’s Square behind the Cathedral is a handy find, and flies flags for the local team.
Finally, The Horse & Hound at the corner of Mulgrave Street and Cathedral Place does decent pub food and provides a convenient stop-off to or from Colbert station.