Limerick FC 1-2 Cork City
LIMERICK FC paid the price for the concession of two goals in as many first half minutes at home to Cork City last night, with Rory Gaffney’s second half strike not enough to salvage a draw.
It was also a costly night injury-wise, with Robbie Williams lasting just seven minutes before limping off to be replaced by Patrick Nzuzi. The Congolese left-back then had an inauspicious introduction as, within a minute of entering the field, he was mugged in possession by Brian Lenihan, who got into a great position on the right but sent over a poor cross to let Limerick off the hook.
Limerick’s next moment of slack play in possession was punished by the visitors, though. On 13 minutes, Mark O’Sullivan robbed the ball from Sammy Oji and slipped in Garry Buckley, whose neatly-placed shot crept into the bottom corner of Barry Ryan’s net to give Cork the lead.
Two minutes later, a careless pass from Limerick captain Shane Duggan, ironically an ex-Cork player, gifted the ball to O’Sullivan, who played it inside to Billy Dennehy. He took a touch to control before finishing to the net to make it 2-0.
At that point it was threatening to turn ugly for a Limerick side low on confidence after just two points from five games. Their hapless first half was epitomised by a rather misfortunate moment on 29 minutes, when Jason Hughes tracked back impressively to dispossess Dennehy, only to then miskick the ball out for a Cork corner.
Limerick were passing the ball neatly but their play lacked incisiveness, while Cork’s more direct approach had purpose to it. The home side were limited to shots from distance such as that from Prince Agyemang and Duggan, whereas the visitors were almost in for a third goal in the 39th minute when Lenihan’s curled cross in behind the Limerick defence needed a sharp interception from Oji.
It all looked too easy for Cork in the first 45 minutes, but the Super Blues emerged from the half-time interval with renewed vigour. Within two minutes of the restart, Shaun Kelly struck a crisp first-time shot from outside the box that forced opposition netminder Mark McNulty into action.
In the 49th minute Gaffney went close with a left-foot volley from the corner of the penalty box, and two minutes later the Galwegian forward was celebrating after he met Shane Tracy’s magnificent cross with a firm close-range header to halve the deficit.
Limerick’s tails were up but they needed to be careful not to fall two goals behind again, and there were a few raised eyebrows when the influential Tracy was substituted after 57 minutes, although his replacement Danny Galbraith went on to have a solid outing.
Cork should have been 3-1 ahead just before the hour mark when O’Sullivan, with a free header in front of goal, nodded the ball off the ground and it bounced over the crossbar, much to the hosts’ relief.
After that brief scare, Limerick regrouped and weren’t far away from equalising on 65 minutes. Oji flicked the ball on for Hughes, whose dipping volley was ultimately off target.
Then Gaffney sent a teasing diagonal ball into a dangerous position towards McManus, but the Scottish veteran couldn’t get a touch on it. A minute later, Gaffney had a chance of his own, his header hanging in the air before being gathered by McNulty.
The Cork goalkeeper produced a wonderful save on 78 minutes from a deep McManus free kick, tipping the ball onto the post and out for a corner. Agyemang then had another ambitious go from distance before Cork substitute Rob Lehane fired over from a great position late on.
Limerick kept pushing hard for that elusive second goal as chances fell to Gaffney and Ross Mann, only for Cork to hold firm. There was one last throw of the dice in the fourth minute of stoppage time when the ball fell for Duggan in the box. He lashed it towards goal but Colin Healy got in the way of it and, with that, the points were secure for the visitors.
After a minor kerfuffle between the respective teams’ coaching staff on the final whistle, Cork manager John Caulfield strolled over to the visiting fans to acknowledge their adoring support. It was in marked contrast to the Leesiders’ last visit to Thomond Park in August 2013 when, following a 2-1 defeat, they called for then-manager Tommy Dunne to be sacked – which he duly was.
It was another night of frustration for Stuart Taylor and Limerick FC, who battled hard in the second half but were made to pay the price for two mad minutes early on that left them with an uphill battle. It also leaves them with just four goals, and four points, from six home games so far in 2014.
Limerick FC: Ryan, Kelly, Folan, Oji, Williams (Nzuzi 8), Hughes, Agyemang, Duggan, Tracy (Galbraith 57), McManus (Mann 81), Gaffney
Cork City: McNulty, Dunleavy, Murray, D Dennehy, Davoren, Lenihan (Lehane 69), Healy, Buckley (Kearney 76), G Morrissey, B Dennehy, O’Sullivan
Referee: Paul McLaughlin