Limerick FC 2-4 Galway United
A HAT-TRICK for Jake Keegan helped Galway United to all three points at the Markets Field on Saturday evening and pushed Limerick even further towards the seemingly inescapable relegation trapdoor.
The American’s trio and a late Gary Shanahan strike ensured victory for the Tribesmen, who would have won by an even greater margin were it not for a tremendous performance from 17-year-old Limerick goalkeeper Tommy Holland.
The Super Blues spurned a great chance to take an early lead when Paul O’Conor’s attempt to lob Conor Winn was too high and the home side would soon come to pay for that profligacy.
In the 12th minute, Keegan burst forward from midfield before laying the ball off to Shanahan, who returned it to his team-mate to finish to the Limerick net from close range.
Martin Russell’s men weren’t too discouraged by the setback, though, and carved out chances of their own, although Enda Curran would almost certainly have doubled Galway’s lead only for a vital clearance from Tony Whitehead.
After half an hour, Shane Duggan’s piledriver was deflected out for a corner, from which Lee-J Lynch provided the chance for ex-Galway striker Vinny Faherty to head in the equaliser.
Limerick soon had the chance to edge in front after Galway cheaply gave the ball away in their own half, but Duggan’s shot was gathered at the second attempt by Winn.
The home side had their best spell of the game in the closing minutes of the first half, with Winn producing a fine save to turn away O’Conor’s curled attempt and Sean Russell’s snapshot drifting wide.
Limerick would have been quite pleased with their first half display but the loss of Lynch through injury at the interval proved pivotal, with Galway completely dominating the second half.
In the space of five minutes shortly after the resumption, Holland made no fewer than four excellent saves, three of them from the rampant Keegan. The pick of the stops was a one-handed save from the American’s 51st-minute curler.
Keegan was simply terrorising Limerick and it took a last-ditch Paudie O’Connor challenge to stop him on 56 minutes before Holland produced another wonderful save from close range on the hour mark.
The dam was going to burst eventually, though, and after 61 minutes the home team’s resistance – or, more accurately, that of the outstanding Holland – was broken. Padraic Cunningham’s cross was met by Keegan, who had the simplest of finishes to put Galway back in the lead.
The Tribesmen ought to have added to their advantage on 69 minutes when Ryan Connolly got the better of the Limerick defence before teeing up Cunningham, who scuffed his shot wide.
It wouldn’t take much longer, though, for Limerick’s misery to be compounded. A ricochet in midfield led to a sudden opening for Keegan, who ran through before slotting past Holland to complete his treble and put the game beyond reach for the Super Blues.
On 80 minutes, Shanahan turned smartly in the box before firing to the net for Galway’s fourth of the evening, sparking quite a few home supporters to head for the exits. They would have missed Limerick nabbing a quick-fire consolation when Marc Ludden upended Ian Turner in the Galway penalty area and the Limerick midfielder picked himself up to dispatch the spot kick and make the score look a tad more respectable.
As the rain pounded down on Garryowen on this Saturday evening, it was appropriate given the bleakness of the scenario in which Limerick now find themselves. The gap between them and 11th is now 10 points after wins for Bray Wanderers and Sligo Rovers this weekend and the team nearest them in the table, Derry City, will provide the opposition for their next assignment at The Brandywell.
Russell conceded afterwards that the lack of depth and experience in Limerick’s squad has contributed to their disastrous season, one which now looks irretrievable with 14 games still to play. It was a year ago this coming Tuesday that Russell took the Limerick manager’s job. Surely he could not have envisaged just how tough it would turn out to be for him.
Limerick FC: Holland; Hughes (Costelloe 83), O’Connor, Whitehead, Tracy; Duggan, O’Conor (Turner 68); Clarke, Lynch (Agyemang h-t), Russell; Faherty.
Galway United: Winn; Horgan, Sinnott, Walsh, Ludden; Byrne, O’Leary; Shanahan, Connolly (Molloy 83), Keegan; Curran (Cunningham 27).
Referee: Graham Kelly (Cork)