Eoin’s first hand account of Limerick soccer scene

Eoin Hand
Former Limerick and Republic of Ireland manager Eoin Hand who will launch his autobiography at Markets Field on Friday

Former Limerick player/manager and Republic of Ireland boss Eoin Hand will hold the Limerick launch of his new book ‘First Hand – My Life and Irish Football’ at the Markets Field on this Friday, November 10.

With Drumcondra and Portsmouth among others in his playing days, Hand led the Shannonsiders to their second and last league title in 1979/80 and FAI Cup two years later, and he acknowledges that his time here was a “huge part of his career”.

He will be joined at the Markets Field on Friday evening by members of the 1982 Cup-winning side, with action getting under way at 7.30pm.

Speaking ahead of the launch – which is in association with Limerick FC and The Collins Press – Hand said: “Limerick is a huge part of my career. That was the transition from me being a player over in Portsmouth to player/manager. Then as a consequence of Limerick, a series of coincidences, becoming the Ireland manager in 1980.

“I was told all of it was an interesting story to put down on paper and, so far, the response has been good. This is a legacy you’re leaving behind and it will be there forever so I was sensitive to different things, without taking away from the truth of the story.”

Hand took charge of Limerick in 1979 and at the first attempt won the League of Ireland title, which he reflects on fondly.

“The timing was very good. I knew I was finished with Portsmouth in the 1979 season. I accepted that I couldn’t keep with the pace of the football over there, but I thought I could still play and I was considering Cyprus and Greece.

“Then Limerick got in touch with me. I don’t know how, but it was Mickey Webb and Harry Gibson-Steele. I met them in Heathrow, we had a long chat and it sounded exciting, plus it was going home. Limerick has and always had a great sporting tradition. I thought it was worth a go.

“It was a phase of my life that I knew I was going to be really committed to because I wanted to see how I’d get on with management.

Eoin Hand
Eoin Hand remonstrates with Portuguese referee Raul Nazare after the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup Qualifier against Belgium.

“I was very analytical about managers I played under and I would pick up their good points and their bad points, in my opinion, as well as my own thoughts on how to play the game. This was an opportunity where I had total control over everything to do with Limerick United, as it was at the time.

“It was a great start to the season; we had played three and won three. It continued from then, it snowballed from then and the confidence grew with the lads. And we had good fun as well. Once the game was over and the work was done I wanted all these lads to bond together. That, to me, was a very important part of team management – all in it together.

“You could feel the whole thing building up and then the realisation that, hey, there’s something happening here – we could win this league.”

Limerick did go on to clinch the title, with a draw against Athlone Town at Saint Mel’s Park on the final day of the 79/80 season. In 1982, the club collected their second-ever FAI Cup with a defeat of Bohemians in the decider at Dalymount Park.