As pre-season begins and fans of the Greatest League in the World start to get excited about what lies in store for their clubs, Treaty United supporters may just fear a dose of second season syndrome.
Last year was truly a historic one for all associated with Limerick’s newest representation in the men’s National League.
Reaching the First Division play-offs in their maiden season was among the greatest achievements against the odds seen on Shannonside since Noel O’Connor’s league cup triumph over Derry City in 2002.
Like O’Connor all those years ago, manager Tommy Barrett took on what many saw as an impossible job and had a huge task even assembling a squad this time last year.
But a season full of determination and desire, sprinkled with quality and magic, culminated in a play-off semi-final defeat to eventual play off winners UCD and breathed new life into the lungs of senior soccer in Limerick.
Retaining a squad of overachievers with little or no financial backing was always going to be difficult so the loss of goalkeeper Tadhg Ryan and striker Sean McSweeney came as no real surprise during the off season.
The return of Jack Brady to the region after his spell as Brendan Clarke’s understudy at Shelbourne softens the blow a little.
He will look to do what Ryan did last year and establish himself at this level by nailing down the number one jersey in Barrett’s side.
Denzil Fernandes has also arrived at the Market’s Field from Shelbourne.
Seen as a direct replacement for McSweeney, the former Cobh number ten could add some samba magic to a front line that at times last season lacked a cutting edge from open play.
Treaty relied heavily on set pieces with defenders Anto O’Donnell and Marc Ludden contributing to the goals for and assists column and striker Kieran Hanlon returning six goals.
With this in mind, Barrett will attempt to add further depth to his squad as he begins preparations for a second season without the surprise factor that may have caught opponents off-guard in 2021.
Considering the nine-team First Division now looks even more competitive, repeating the highs of last season could be a lot more difficult this time out.
Full-time outfits Cork City, Galway United and Waterford United, with serial championship winner Ian Morris now in charge, have all bolstered their squads considerably.
Relegated Longford Town will obviously be looking for a quick return to the top flight.
Athlone Town now have Martin Russell at the helm, a manager who improves every team he works with.
Even Wexford, who finished bottom last season, have been very active in the transfer market.
They’ve signed the likes of Dinny Corcoran and Luka Lovic as well as retaining Jack Doherty, showing Ian Ryan’s men have serious plans of moving up the table this year.
With no real financial clout in the transfer market and the countdown to the opening round of fixtures already started, all in the midwest will hope Tommy Barrett can again conjure up a recipe.
That may just ensure his Red and White Army will not resemble another Red and White-striped club from a different country as Atletico Madrid who, in recent times, have become the definition of second-season syndrome.
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