Limerick defender Paudie O’Connor believes his team are “on track” for their league opener on 5 March after a very positive opening three weeks in pre-season training, with their first outing coming this weekend in the Munster Senior Cup.
The Shannonsiders returned to the training ground on 11 January and while last season’s disappointing conclusion was mentioned “briefly” on that day, the full focus since has been on immediately returning to the Premier Division.
Limerick are back in action on Saturday afternoon when Cobh Wanderers visit for a Munster Senior Cup quarter-final, a tie which has been moved to the all-weather surface at the University of Limerick with kick-off also changed to 3pm.
For the Blues, it is the start of their defence of the trophy which they won for the 13th time last May, defeating Avondale United in the final thanks to a late Shane Tracy penalty.
O’Connor made his senior competitive debut in this competition in 2014, as a 16-year-old against Rockmount at Turner’s Cross and featured in the final that season. But such was his rise to the first team last term that he was rested for the decider.
The former Kilcornan, Breska Rovers and Regional United youngster is nearing three years at the club and the 2015 Young Player of the Year knows the aim is clear for the campaign ahead, with preparations going well so far.
“It has been good – tough but very good,” Paudie told LimerickFC.ie. “To be fair the gaffer and Derek (McCarthy) eased us back into it but it has begun to pick up pace now and sessions are starting to get a higher intensity about them as we build towards matches. The whole aim is to be flying fit come March 5th and I think we’re on track for that.
“I can’t wait for Saturday. For the league you have to wait even longer to get back into action but you can tell the boys are buzzing for the first game already. You just hope you are fresh and ready for game-time at the end of February to give yourself the best possible start to the season.”
Limerick are preparing for life in the First Division after a heartbreaking relegation last November, but O’Connor says that is now behind them. The 18-year-old centre-half has also been impressed with new forward additions John O’Flynn and Chris Mulhall.
“We spoke about it briefly on the first day back,” Paudie revealed, “but since then it has been all about the season coming and preparing ourselves in the best possible manner to achieve the ultimate aim of bouncing back up.
“The boys that have come in have done very well so far and added experience and quality to the squad. Flynners is a quality striker and has scored wherever he has gone. I’m learning from him myself from marking him, the dos and don’ts when it comes to defending and he gives great information to the younger lads.
“Chrissy has been very sharp so far as well. He has bags of energy and I think he’ll cause a lot of defenders problems in the league this year.”
Limerick’s opponents Cobh Wanderers ply their trade in the Munster Senior League First Division where they have played just four games so far this season, winning one of those. They recently added former Blue Martin Deady to their squad, along with ex-Dundalk and Cobh Ramblers midfielder Rob Waters.
Team News: Limerick will be without captain Shane Duggan, right-back Shaun Kelly and striker John O’Flynn who are all nursing knocks and won’t be risked.
Winger Chris Mulhall is in line for his competitive debut having joined over the winter while forward Garbhán Coughlan is also set to feature having returned to the club after impressing with local side Regional United. Manager Martin Russell may also give a run to some Under-19s.
“We’re looking forward to the game,” Russell said. “It’s part of our pre-season preparations and it’s a chance to look at one or two of the younger lads as well.”
Officials: Referee for Saturday’s game is Rob Hennessy who will be assisted by Dermot Broughton and Ralph Pieper.
Match Details: Munster Senior Cup Quarter-Final: Limerick v Cobh Wanderers, University of Limerick (All-Weather), Saturday 30 January, 3pm.
Preview Date: Friday 29 January 2016