Bluebell United 2-5 Limerick FC
A HAT-TRICK from John O’Flynn helped Limerick to a comfortable 5-2 victory over Bluebell United in Round 2 of the FAI Cup at Markets Field on Saturday.
Despite the Leinster Senior League side retrieving two goals prior to Paul O’Conor’s stoppage time strike, the Super Blues were never in any danger of being on the receiving end of a cup upset.
Indeed, from the first whistle it was almost entirely one-way traffic towards the Bluebell goal, with Andy McNulty doing well to thwart Stephen Kenny in the early exchanges and Robbie Williams firing over with a sight of goal. Limerick needed just 13 minutes to open the scoring, with Kenny’s cross meeting O’Flynn, who laid the ball on a plate for Chris Mulhall to finish first-time into the bottom corner of the Bluebell net.
Midway through the first half, Mulhall was bundled over in the penalty area and referee Kevin O’Regan awarded the spot kick without hesitation. Shane Tracy, though, was to be denied from 12 yards by McNulty, who shortly afterwards produced another good stop to keep out Lee-J Lynch. As the first half wore on, the Bluebell goalkeeper was quickly becoming a one-man barrier between Limerick and a goal glut, with O’Flynn and Tracy both seeing chances kept out by McNulty.
Six minutes before half time, Kenny was pushed to the ground by Robert Bayly and Limerick had another penalty. This time O’Flynn took on the responsibility and this time it was dispatched to the net, with the First Division leaders doubling their advantage. It was so nearly three a minute later when the outrushing McNulty misjudged the flight of the ball and, on the goal line, O’Flynn somehow curled the ball in from a seemingly impossible angle. It was such a pity that the ball had gone just over the line before he dragged it back and shot, as it would have been the undisputed goal of the weekend’s cup action.
Bluebell had been resolute in the first half but within a few minutes of the restart it was very much game over. In the 50th minute, Kenny crossed for O’Flynn to bullet a header to the net for 3-0 and then Limerick were awarded their third penalty of the game, Bayly again the culprit. O’Flynn duly did the honours to complete his hat-trick and was immediately substituted to keep him fresh for league action and to allow him to take the acclaim of the home supporters.
Such was Limerick’s comfort at this stage that an element of complacency entered their play and they were a tad fortunate on 68 minutes when Tracy’s error was seized upon by Sean Byrne, who ended up shooting narrowly wide. At the other end, substitute Jordan Moore was highly industrious but couldn’t fulfil the pleas of the Limerick fans to get the goal that his efforts merited.
After 76 minutes, Tommy Holland’s clean sheet evaporated as Byrne lashed home a consolation goal for the tireless visitors. However, when Toyeeb Mustapha reduced the deficit to 4-2 shortly afterwards, the irritation of Martin Russell was evident on the touchline, and it nearly grew even further in the 88th minute when Mustapha’s shot from close range clipped the crossbar on its way over.
Limerick managed to sign off with a fifth goal in stoppage time, O’Conor applying the finish with a tap-in, and in the end it was comfortable for the Super Blues, even though Russell was irked by the manner in which his team dropped a few gears in the final quarter of an hour.
At least Limerick are into the last 16 of the cup after two years of Round 2 exits. There was to be no such progress for Pike Rovers, though, after they went down 8-0 away to Premier Division club St Patrick’s Athletic, although the possibility of two Shannonside represenatives in Round 3 remains as Janesboro meet FAI Junior Cup winners Sheriff YC this Sunday afternoon.
Bluebell United: McNulty; Gleeson, Mandiangu, Laurence, Russell (Byrne 49); Bayly, Quinn; Darcy (Mustapha 58), Griffith, Keddy; Zambra (Slattery 58).
Limerick FC: Hall; Kelly (Whitehead 58), O’Connor, Williams, Tracy; O’Conor, Lynch; Kenny, Mulhall, Russell (Murphy 70); O’Flynn (Moore 55).
Referee: Kevin O’Regan