Soccer: Students taught a lesson by rampant Limerick

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Limerick FC manager Martin Russell at the Markets Field, Limerick.
Limerick FC manager Martin Russell at the Markets Field, Limerick. Picture: Oisín McHugh / SPORTSFILE

 

Limerick FC 4-1 UCD

FIRST Division pre-season favourites Limerick FC got off to a tremendous start at Markets Field on Saturday night, coming from behind to beat 10-man UCD 4-1.

Maxi Kouogun had given the Students an early lead but two goals from Aaron Greene, added to by strikes from Chris Mulhall and Shane Tracy, ensured that Martin Russell’s side ran out comprehensive winners.

Limerick were on the front foot from the off and forged a scoring chance inside four minutes, Garbhan Coughlan heading wide from inside the penalty area. A few minutes later, the ex-Athlone man was almost in again, only to slip as he prepared to shoot, although he did have the presence of mind to flick the ball to Shane Duggan, whose shot was turned away by UCD goalkeeper Niall Corbet.

The opening goal arrived on 18 minutes, but it was completely against the run of play. Gary O’Neill’s free from the left was headed in by Kouogun from close range, the UCD centre-back aided by charitable defending from the home side.

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The Students weren’t far off doubling their lead soon afterwards when Kieran Marty Waters shrugged off a challenge and forced a fine save from Freddy Hall, who parried the ball to Ryan Swan and did just enough to put off the UCD striker.

Limerick had lost their way somewhat after the goal, but in the 28th minute they restored parity. A superb ball from deep picked out Greene, who drilled a low shot into the far corner of Corbet’s goal to equalise. The Super Blues came close again five minutes later, Greene’s flick-on from a corner just too high for the onrushing Seamus Sharkey, and then Paudie O’Connor looked set to score when set up by Coughlan, only for the ball to squirm under his legs when he had the goal at his mercy.

Three minutes before half-time, the game swung massively in Limerick’s favour. Mulhall was floored by Brian Shortall in an incident off the ball that referee Andrew Mullally missed, but his attention was called by his assistant and, after a brief consultation, Shortall was given a straight red card.

UCD got to the interval on level terms but the second half was predominantly one-way traffic towards their goal. Corbet managed to deny Stephen Kenny’s curling shot on 52 minutes before the Limerick winger struck the post a couple of minutes later. The home side also had the ball in the UCD net, but the goal was disallowed for foul play.

Limerick didn’t have to wait too long to find the net again, though. In the 57th minute, Duggan slipped in Greene and the former Sligo and St Pat’s midfielder slotted coolly past Corbet, his outstanding display deservedly being marked with a second goal. Two minutes later, Duggan’s shot was blocked by the UCD defence but the ball fell straight to Mulhall, who turned and fired into the bottom corner of the net to effectively secure the points for Limerick.

Greene showed another demonstration of his quality midway through the second half when he neatly jinked into the UCD penalty area, his crusade eventually put to an end by a good block from Kouogun. After 73 minutes, substitute John O’Flynn surged into the box and drew a good save from Corbet, but the keeper couldn’t hold it and Tracy was on hand to emphatically lash home a fourth goal for the rampant home side.

Another substitute, Ross Mann, had the crowd out of their seats late on when he embarked on a 50-yard run to set up O’Flynn, only for the former Irish under-21 international to chip over the bar when one-on-one with Corbet. Duggan then looked primed to cap his magnificent display with a goal, but his first touch unusually let him down. It was a sign of the home team’s comfort that, in stoppage time, the fans urged Robbie Williams to try a shot from all of 35 yards. The defender got it on target, to be fair, although Corbet saw it all the way and gathered with ease.

If Limerick wanted to send out an early statement of intent, that wish was fulfilled on a very encouraging night at Markets Field. Greene was particularly outstanding from first moment to last, although every player could look back with immense satisfaction on their performance. It’s only one step of the 28 to be taken, but as starts to the season go, this could hardly have been any better.

 

Limerick FC: Hall; Sharkey, O’Connor, Williams, Murphy; Tracy, Duggan; Kenny (McCartan 85), Coughlan (Mann 74), Greene; Mulhall (O’Flynn 65).

UCD: Corbet; Tobin (Coyne 85), Kouogun, Shortall, McLaughlin; Brady (Watson 71), O’Neill, Watts, Langtry; Waters; Swan (Kelly 71).

Referee: Andrew Mullally

Attendance: 1,252