IT appeared – for those of us requiring advanced football counselling – that even the iconic St John’s Cathedral was anxiously leaning over proceedings as the game entered injury time at the Markets Field.
In the main stand, Limerick FC fans were “encouraging” the ref to blow full time, the apprehension sweeping onto the field in a tsunami of collective anxiety.
Dry Treaty City wit doesn’t suffice in moments like this. “C’mon ref, you’re giving us everything,” a fan memorably shouted at the whistle blower last season, but, on the most recent occasion, the shout was for the man who used to be all in black – have football chiefs got an issue with Johnny Cash? – to call time.
He did, and Limerick picked up what could prove to be a crucial three points in their battle to avoid getting sucked into a relegation dog fight.
Rodrigo Tosi’s 10th-minute penalty – his 11th goal of a see-saw season – helped secure the points in a 1-0 win over Bohemians. Brendan Clarke, named captain for the game, brilliantly saved a penalty. Bastien Hery influenced in midfield.
Chiedozie Ogbene ozone-layered a few opportunities but otherwise had a fine match. His commitment to the cause makes him a firm favourite with supporters and he has a turn of pace that would trouble Usain Bolt. The much-maligned back-four had a solid outing and kept the proverbial clean sheet. Overall, a gutsy performance – in contrast to the wretched display against Shamrock Rovers five days previously.
The margin of victory, however, should have been greater, but, as things stand, four points of daylight exist between Neil McDonald’s outfit and the bottom three going down the final stretch. Seven games remain.
Finn Harps, very obligingly, losing to Cork City last week helped. Cork, barring a capitulation of Devon Loch proportions, will be crowned champions, while third-from-bottom Finn Harps are in town this weekend for a crucial game.
The Donegal outfit were at the Markets Field last Saturday for the FAI Cup, but cup football is a luxury that can only be enjoyed when your league status is secure – and your fingernails are still relatively intact.
The win over Bohs put a spring in McDonald’s step at the press conference after the game and you wouldn’t begrudge him that respite given that Limerick had lost their previous three league games up to the visit of the Dubliners and hadn’t won at home since early June. McDonald, however, pointed out that those reversals were to teams occupying top four positions. He also admitted that our failure to kill off Bohs in the second half was frustrating.
“It’s always difficult when you don’t win games. You have to keep on believing. The same with the players. They have to keep on believing. It (the result) is very satisfying. It’s a little bit frustrating that we can go all the way to the 90th minute and not finish the game off with the chances we had,” he said.
“It was a fantastic performance from the players and a great reaction from Tuesday (home loss to Shamrock Rovers). We were right at it, which is excellent. That’s something we need to do from the start of every game.
“We had a little bit of luck with the penalty which was a great save from Brendan. We’re working now to the next game to try and win the next game. It’s always difficult picking a team. Sometimes I have to change it. All the players know what the situation is. If you play well you’ll keep your position. If you don’t play well I’m liable to make changes.”
Following the visit of Finn Harps, Limerick has six games remaining. These are: Bray (A), Cork (H), St Pat’s (A), Drogheda United (H), Galway (H) and Shamrock Rovers (A).
Two wins against Harps and Bray would do nicely, but four points is probably a more attainable target. Either way, Limerick don’t want the type of drama that accompanies relegation battles, and, suffice to say, they never want to have to win the First Division again.
Elsewhere under the shadow of St John’s Cathedral, the St Francis BC, the home of Olympians, WBO and Irish Elite champions, began their Special Needs Boxing classes last week.
A number of kids have already enrolled for the non-contact course including Samuel “Southpaw” O’Neill, a nickname which is right up there with the great Juan “Hispanic Causin’ Panic” Lazcano, who dropped a unanimous decision to Ricky Hatton in his last fight. Guess the Hit Man didn’t panic then!
Interestingly, most of the kids, including Samuel, when asked who was their favourite boxer leaned toward London 2012 lightweight champion Katie Taylor ahead of Rome 1960 Olympic light-heavy champion Muhammad Ali/Cassius Clay who has roots in Kilrush, which is, of course, part of the Greater Limerick region.
Odessa Grady-Clay was Ali’s mum. One of her grandparents was Tom Moorehead, the son of a white Moorehead and a slave named Dinah. Mrs. Clay’s other grandfather was Abe Grady from Clare who immigrated to the USA soon after the American Civil war and married a “freed coloured woman” whose name is unknown.
Meanwhile, the St Francis BC – former alma mater to WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee, Ireland’s only boxer at the 2004 Olympics, and club to Jimmy Moore, the only Irishman (at Elite level) to beat (twice) two-time Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes, who is the only Irish athlete besides Pat O’Callaghan (hammer throw 1928/32) to medal at successive Olympiads – is not Ireland’s oldest boxing club, as is often erroneously claimed.
However, founded in 1928, the St Francis BC does have the distinction of being the longest affiliated Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) club in Ireland. St Francis chief seconds Ken Moore and his wife Marian and staff are running the Special Needs Boxing classes which began last week. A second session is scheduled for tonight, August 29 (6pm).
Ken explained that they will be awarding bronze, silver and gold medals to participants, according to levels achieved in training.
He added that the objective of the classes is for kids to enjoy their training in a friendly atmosphere in a club where two-time Olympic champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, arguably one of Cuba’s greatest boxers of all time, and Katie Taylor, arguably the best pound-for-pound female fighter on the planet, sparred in 2011.
Between them, they’ve won seven AIBA World Elite titles. Less than a year after crossing swords at the St Francis BC, one of the distinguished elders of Ireland’s most successful Olympic sport, Taylor won gold at London 2012 this month five year ago. It remains Ireland’s only top of the podium finish at the Olympic Games in all sports this century.