Limerick FC: The First Division champions already have their eyes on the top-flight
Manager Martin Russell spoke to Newstalk Sport after gaining promotion17:16 Wednesday 31 August 2016, 17:16 31 Aug 2016
Last Sunday evening, the inevitable happened. Just before 8pm, Limerick FC were crowned First Division champions.
Martin Russell's side defeated UCD 3-2 in Belfield, in what was one of their more testing games of the season. His side became champions, having only dropped four points in their opening 22 games.
Limerick won their first 13 league games of the season before they dropped points. Drogheda United held the then-future champions to a 2-2 draw in Market's Field in June. In the next league game between the two teams, a 95th minute goal from Aaron Greene made sure Limerick remained unbeaten.
Last season was a case of so close, yet so far for Russell's side. Written off as relegation fodder in the middle of the season, Limerick overtook Drogheda thanks to some outstanding form in the second half of the season, only to lose in the promotion/relegation play-off to Finn Harps, despite being overwhelming favourites in Ballybofey.
Speaking after the promotion to Newstalk Sport, Martin Russell admitted promotion was the "big objective of the season". The First Division is only a 28-game season, and Limerick won the title with six games left.
Limerick's promotion has been expected for months, and Russell admitted that the "standards" in the team, have made sure that the team continue to perform so impressively.
"We've tried get the lads to play in a fashion that wins the league, but also with an eye on Premier Division football and the standards that are needed there."
In the 22 league games, Limerick have scored 77 goals, with John O'Flynn top-scoring with 12 goals. Apart from O'Flynn, eight other players have scored at least five goals as the team flourished. Russell believes that was a key to the promotion.
"That's been pleasing. From the forwards to the defenders, they have all rowed in with their fair share".
Limerick players celebrate their promotion to the First Division. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Tom Beary
The Premier Division is now next on Russell's horizon and he feels the squad is strong enough to be competitive, and in the years to come.
"It's a long time since Limerick got into Europe. We have got to be realistic, but we got to be working towards that objective again. It really will kick off for Limerick FC once they get a European spot."
Unbeaten through 22 games, Russell admitted that finishing the season without a loss would be a brilliant achievement.
"It'd be a nice goal. The lads have mentioned it themselves. With the games remaining, we will do our upmost to play them out in a winnable fashion. Hopefully we can do that."
Limerick still have an EA Sports Cup final to come against St. Patrick's Athletic and will look to add that trophy to the First Division title. Premier Division teams better watch out.
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