Limerick FC 0-2 Derry City
LIMERICK FC have only two more games to preserve their Premier Division status after a strangely lifeless 0-2 defeat against Derry City at Markets Field on Saturday night.
Second half goals from Mark Timlin and Barry McNamee secured the points for the visitors, who rubber-stamped their place in next year’s top flight with the win.
Derry looked sharper and showed the greater urgency right from the word go, serving notice of what they could produce as early as the fourth minute when Stephen Dooley got the better of ex-Candystripe Shaun Kelly to float a cross to the back post for Timlin, but it had too much swerve on it and drifted wide.
Limerick had to withstand the away team’s impetus in the early exchanges but they fashioned a chance on the quarter-hour when Sean Russell worked into a great position and laid the ball off to Vinny Faherty, who played in Dean Clarke, and his low shot from an acute angle was blocked behind for a corner which was nearly headed into his own net by Ryan McBride.
Derry managed to catch the home side napping on the counterattack on a few occasions in the game and, immediately following that escape at their end, Patrick McEleney advanced a full 40 yards before threading it through to Dooley, who shot wide, although Limerick goalkeeper Freddy Hall had it covered if it was on target.
Midway through the first half, there was another close escape for Limerick after McEleney tried to play in Mark Quigley, who was primed to shoot before a brilliant interception by Patrick Kanyuka took it out for a corner. On 28 minutes, sloppy play by Limerick near halfway led to a quick breakaway which required Paul O’Conor to cut out the danger inside the penalty area. From another counterattack, the home defence needed to be alert to block efforts from Timlin and Conor McCormack.
After surviving that seven-minute spell, Limerick at least looked more composed in the closing stages of the first half and a favourable bounce of the ball led to a half-chance for Faherty, who advanced into the Derry penalty box but couldn’t hit the target with McBride tracking him every step of the way.
Limerick manager Martin Russell was no doubt calling for an improved performance in the second half but, in the 54th minute, the Super Blues were dealt a hammer blow. McNamee’s free kick from the left-hand side was not cleared adequately by the Limerick defence and Timlin lashed the ball into the home team’s net to put the Candystripes ahead.
Faherty soon had another half-chance with a header after some good work by Ian Turner, who chipped in a cross from the byline, but Limerick’s task then got even more mountainous on 61 minutes. Slack defending allowed the ever-dangerous McEleney to work the ball into a good position unchallenged and he fed it to McNamee, who lifted it over the stooping Hall to double Derry’s lead.
The theme of Limerick’s season has been a remarkable fightback from a position of seemingly inescapable doom, but on this night it never seemed likely that they would haul themselves off the canvas. The tempo was nowhere near what it needed to be, they were careless in possession and their decision making was questionable. If anything, they were fortunate not to be further behind when, in the 72nd minute, a curled shot by McEleney beat Hall and thundered off the crossbar. It was deserving of a goal, in truth.
There was a scare of a different, more serious nature in the final few minutes when McEleney collapsed near the halfway line, with former team-mate Kelly immediately beckoning the physios and medics on the touchline onto the field. The match was stopped for six minutes while the Derry attacker received treatment, the cause of the stoppage reportedly a punctured lung.
Thankfully there was motion from the player as he was carefully placed on a stretcher and both sets of supporters applauded him off. McEleney went to hospital after the match but he recovered sufficiently to travel back north that night on the team bus.
It took some of the gloss off a very good night for Derry, who were deserving winners and can now face into the final two games of the season with absolutely no pressure. The situation couldn’t be more different for Limerick, who have only next Friday’s home game against Shamrock Rovers and the final day trip to Sligo Rovers to do what they haven’t managed all year – climb off the bottom of the Premier Division.
Limerick FC: Hall; Kelly, Kanyuka, Williams, Russell; Duggan, O’Conor (Tracy 60); Turner (Rainsford 70), Lynch, Clarke; Faherty.
Derry City: Doherty; Cornwall, McBride, Barry, Jarvis; McCormack, McNamee; Timlin, McEleney (McEniff 89), Dooley; Quigley (O’Connor 67).
Referee: Jim McKell (Tipperary)