LIMERICK FC are still awaiting their first win of the 2014 SEE Airtricity League Premier Division after Declan O’Brien’s 30th-minute goal secured victory for high-flying Drogheda United at Thomond Park.
Both teams made clear their intentions to attack from the outset in an open game with several chances evenly spread between the two teams, although a floodlight failure late in the closing stages resulted in a seven-minute hiatus.
There was an impeccably observed minute’s silence prior to kick-off in memory of Steven Kavanagh (21), an avid supporter of Limerick who was laid to rest just hours earlier.
The game was sparked into life in the 13th minute when a majestic ‘Cruyff turn’ from Limerick’s Rory Gaffney led to a chance for right-back Shaun Kelly, who twice saw his efforts repelled by Drogheda goalkeeper Dave Ryan, brother of opposite netminder Barry Ryan.
Limerick’s keeper was called into action six minutes later as he got to a downward header from O’Brien. Limerick asked questions of the Boynesiders from set pieces, but it was a moment of carelessness which led to the opening goal on the half hour.
A Drogheda cross from the right looked like being safely gathered by Barry Ryan, but he couldn’t grasp it and O’Brien was left with an insultingly easy tap-in to give Drogheda the lead.
Robbie Horgan’s side had their tails up and Limerick had to withstand a spell of pressure. They almost fell 2-0 behind on 36 minutes when a swift Drogheda counterattack saw O’Brien play in Gary O’Neill. Barry Ryan made up for his earlier error with a fine save.
From the next play, his brother was doing likewise at the other end as he pushed over James McGrath’s close-range header. The resulting corner wasn’t cleared by Drogheda and Sammy Oji’s 25-yard piledriver whizzed narrowly wide.
Barry Ryan was on hand again, literally, to deny Alan McNally from six yards out in the 53rd minute as Drogheda made the quicker start to the second half.
They were almost caught on the break, though, after 64 minutes when Jason Hughes picked out substitute Craig Curran, only for the Liverpudlian to be penalised for handball.
Midway through the half, Hughes was again the creator, this time for Shane Duggan, but the Limerick captain dragged his effort wide after setting himself to shoot.
Tam McManus was brought on for his Super Blues debut in the 74th minute when he replaced James McGrath and a minute later Barry Ryan once more saved his team’s blushes, getting down low to stifle O’Brien after the Drogheda man got in behind Stephen Folan.
A lively affair was halted in bizarre fashion when the floodlights went out at Thomond Park. As the players moved about on the pitch to keep warm on a chilly night, some supporters provided their own illuminaton by turning their phones into impromptu flashlights.
Shortly after the lights came back on and the game resumed, McManus had the ball in the Drogheda net, but he had barely turned away to celebrate when he noticed the assistant’s flag raised for offside.
The visitors managed to see out the remainder of the match to maintain their impressive start to the season. For Limerick, though, the search for a first league win in 2014 goes on into April.
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