Limerick FC 1-2 Dundalk
DUNDALK’S sustained second half pressure ultimately proved too much for Limerick FC to handle, with the Lilywhites winning 2-1 at Thomond Park on Frday night to go top of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division.
Darren Meenan struck the winner with 15 minutes to go as the visitors eventually found a way past Barry Ryan, who was immense in goal for Limerick.
After a troubled week which saw Craig Curran leave the club, Limerick started strongly and Shane Tracy’s volley forced a good save from Dundalk keeper Peter Cherrie within the first three minutes. On nine minutes Rory Gaffney let fly from 20 yards with a left-foot strike that sailed just wide, with the Super Blues quicker out of the traps.
However, they were soon made to pay for slack defending. In the 15th minute Dundalk won a free 30 yards from goal which Richie Towell delivered towards Dane Massey, who headed it across to Brian Gartland and the centre-back was left with a tap-in to give Stephen Kenny’s side the lead.
The goal galvanised Dundalk, who then had the better of proceedings after a sluggish opening quarter of an hour. Ryan made the first of numerous wonder saves in the 27th minute, tipping away Towell’s curling shot after a one-two between the Dundalk midfielder and Daryl Horgan.
On the half-hour mark, Danny Galbraith took a tumble in the Dundalk penalty area and referee Neil Doyle pointed to the spot. The visitors were incensed by the decision, but Tracy gleefully accepted the gift and drilled the penalty into the bottom corner of Cherrie’s goal for the equaliser.
Limerick’s tails were up after restoring parity and they finished the first half with two decent chances. The first was created by a Gaffney surge down the left, only for his cross into Jason Hughes to be cut out by Andy Boyle, and then Hughes forced a reaction save out of Cherrie with a 20-yard strike.
Kenny did not look overly pleased as the teams made their way to the dressing rooms for half-time and an inevitable rollicking sparked life into Dundalk in the second half. They raced out of the traps and Limerick were finding it hard to get on the ball. Galbraith was lucky not to see yellow for two needless fouls on Sean Gannon.
Ten minutes after the break, Shaun Kelly handled the ball in the penalty area and Doyle was again blowing for a spot kick. Towell took the responsibility for Dundalk, but his low shot was excellently saved by Ryan and Limerick eventually got the ball clear.
The Limerick netminder, so instrumental in their seventh-place finish last term, pulled off two more fine saves midway through the second half. Firstly he denied Meenan after the Dundalk winger turned to strike, and then he made a magnificent stop to deny Pat Hoban’s volley, with Ryan proving to be an impassable object for the now-dominant visitors.
He again left Hoban frustrated on 71 minutes when he got down to push away the striker’s downward header, but the door was finally forced open in the 75th minute when David McMillan, just on as a substitute, sent a curling cross to Meenan, who had the freedom of Thomond Park to sweep the ball into the Limerick net from close range.
The goal was no more than the Lilywhites deserved, although the manner of the defending was sure to leave Limerick boss Stuart Taylor with sleepless nights. It was almost 3-1 in the closing stages when a Dundalk counterattack saw Horgan set up Towell for what looked a straightforward finish. That man Ryan again proved his worth, though, tipping the ball onto the post and out for corner.
Limerick had been plum out of luck in recent games, but here they could have no complaints. Dundalk ought to have won by more than the odd goal, but they won’t be unhappy with three points which temporarily takes them top of the league. For Limerick, it’s one home win from five and they remain 11th, although they play their game in hand against Cork City on Tuesday at Thomond Park.
Limerick FC: Ryan, Kelly, Folan, Whitehead, Williams, Duggan (McManus 79), Agyemang, Hughes, Galbraith (Rainsford 88), Gaffney, Tracy (McGrath 66)
Dundalk: Cherrie, Gannon, Gartland, Boyle, Massey, Meenan, Shields, Towell, Horgan, Hoban (McMillan 72), Byrne (Higgins 87)
Referee: Neil Doyle