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Letting Limerick FC return to LOI would send wrong message

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RETIRED: Sean Russell. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

RETIRED: Sean Russell. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

RETIRED: Sean Russell. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Former Limerick FC midfielder Sean Russell says there should be no place for the club in senior football next season as he continues to deal with the implications of a career-ending injury sustained while playing for the side.

And he is upset that he has had no contact from FAI officials to discuss his case as Limerick FC try to complete the club licencing process to allow them compete in the second tier in the 2020 season.

Limerick FC, with debts of €490,000, had effectively been removed from the league but club owner Pat O'Sullivan last week took a case against the FAI to the High Court, demanding the club's reinstatement, and the FAI have since said they will allow Limerick FC apply for a licence for 2020.

A rival group, Limerick United, have already been admitted to the underage leagues for 2020.

Russell was forced to go through two bouts of surgery and eventually retire last month, at the age of 26, due to the serious nature of a knee injury he picked up while on duty for the Blues in the First Division last season. 

Because he was registered on amateur terms, Russell was not fully covered by the club's insurance policy and, facing bills of €11,000 for surgery, was forced to fundraise to pay for his treatment.

Counting up those medical costs, physio bills and loss of earnings while he was out of work, Russell reckons the episode has cost close to €20,000.

And he feels that Limerick FC should not be able to remain in the league.

"It doesn't make sense to me, given what went on with me last year to have Limerick FC in the league when people are owed money, given how the club was run last year," says Russell, who is now on board as coach with the U-17 side at Limerick United.

"It's hard to see that being a positive move for anyone.

"If Limerick FC are allowed back into the league, considering what happened, what message does that send to the rest of the league?

"If they can get away with that, where do you draw the line after that? It's not right. We need to take football in Ireland seriously and if Limerick FC are back in the First Division, it would be wrong, it would lay down a standard for the rest of the league.

"Players and staff should not put themselves in an environment like that. For the sake of football, I hope they are not back. It was such a tough year for me, my mental health suffered," added Russell. "My main concern now is being able to work again, have some sort of quality of life as I have not had that in the last year."

Russell sustained the injury last March and was forced to go public in May when issues arose over payment for his first bout of surgery.

"I have had no contact from the FAI since last summer, when they said it was between me and the club," Russell says.

"The club didn't want to do anything so the governing body, the FAI, should have intervened but they didn't want to take that responsibility, and I have heard nothing from Fran Gavin or the FAI since."

The costs of Russell's operations have been covered, and he is grateful to the Leinster Senior League for their help. "Dave Moran from the LSL reached out and arranged for my second surgery, that was fantastic. But the LSL should not have to help out a professional club in a professional league. That sums up this whole mess," he said.

Russell has moved back to Limerick after a spell in Dublin, is keen to find work and is also moving up the coaching ladder, with newly founded Limerick United. "There is real talent here and I'd love to help out," he says.