Limerick FC set for 2015 Markets Field return as Sligo beaten in Thomond farewell

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Limerick 1-0 Sligo RoversLimerick FC 1-0 Sligo Rovers

AFTER a two-year stint of playing home games at Thomond Park, Limerick FC signed off from the Munster Rugby venue with a 1-0 win over Sligo Rovers on the night that chairman Pat O’Sullivan confirmed that the club would return to the Markets Field for the beginning of the 2015 season.

Rory Gaffney’s 53rd-minute goal was enough to give Limerick the three points that moved them into the top half of the table, as well as ticking off the one remaining Premier Division team that the Super Blues hadn’t beaten since returning to the top flight last year.

The home side created two decent openings in the first 10 minutes, with Ian Turner shooting wide on the turn from inside the Sligo penalty area and Gaffney flicking wide first-time from a Turner delivery.

Limerick goalkeeper Ali Abass was first called into action in the 20th minute when he claimed a Danny North volley following a central free kick from Danny Ledwith.

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Sligo went close shortly afterwards when an inviting cross was fizzed in towards Paul O’Conor, but the ex-Drogheda United man was unable to get a touch to it.

There was a slightly bizarre incident near the end of the first half when Ledwith, believing that a Patrick Nzuzi clearance had drifted out of play on a wet, windy night, caught the ball as it descended towards him. He looked bemused when referee Kevin O’Regan awarded a free kick against him for handball.

Gaffney looked set to score on 39 minutes when he unleashed a shot from outside the area, but Evan McMillan got a vital touch to deflect it out for a corner, from which Prince Agyemang’s stinging drive was blocked on the line.

There was a joyous roar at half-time when O’Sullivan announced the Markets Field move for next season and the home fans’ mood improved further eight minutes after the interval. Nzuzi floated a cross into the Sligo box and Gaffney got his head to it to direct the ball into Richard Brush’s net for his 14th league goal of the season.

Lee-J Lynch nearly made it 2-0 in the 64th minute after being slipped through by Gaffney, only for Brush to deny the former Sligo and St Pat’s midfielder a goal against his former club.

Limerick had the better of it in the second half but still needed young netminder Abass to rescue them. The Ghanaian tipped Ledwith’s free kick off the bar and out for a corner on 73 minutes. From the set piece, substitute Gary Armstrong had a shot that Abass brilliantly managed to flick away.

The home side had two glorious chances to add to their lead in the closing minutes, both of which were spurned surprisingly by Gaffney. Firstly he was denied by Brush when through on goal and then, from a swift counterattack, he chipped over the Sligo crossbar when a carefully-placed shot into the bottom corner would have been a certain goal.

That was merely a footnote on a fantastic night for Limerick, though, and there was a genuine feel-good vibe in the Thomond Suite after the game when supporters gathered for the end of year presentations. Gaffney scopped the Limerick football writers’ Player of the Year award, with Jason Hughes being named as the club’s Young Player of the Year as the Super Blues said farewell to Thomond Park.

 

Limerick FC: Abass, Nzuzi, Oji, Leahy, O’Connor, Turner (Mann 65), Lynch, Agyemang (Tracy 65), Duggan, Djilali, Gaffney.

Sligo Rovers: Brush, Boylan (Armstrong h-t), McMillan, Spillane, Ledwith, Cretaro (Donelon 90), Conneely, Cawley, O’Conor, Zayed, North (Keating 66).

Referee: Kevin O’Regan