Soccer: Essien sees Limerick edge closer to promotion

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Limerick FC 2-0 Shelbourne

Limerick FC's Shane Duggan is presented with the man of the match award by former Chelsea player Michael Essien.
Limerick FC’s Shane Duggan is presented with the man of the match award by former Chelsea player Michael Essien.

IN FRONT of an attendance of 1,272 that included a group of 120 American visitors and ex-Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien, Limerick FC picked up their 18th league win out of 19 on Friday night with a 2-0 defeat of Shelbourne.

Two goals in seven minutes either side of half-time ensured that the Super Blues remain on course to clinch promotion with victory in their next home match against Cabinteely in a fortnight’s time, assuming they can win away to Drogheda next weekend.

Limerick were in control of this game from the off, Aaron Greene having an early half-chance and then Chris Mulhall being flagged for a narrow offside from an inviting Sean Russell through ball. The manager’s son almost broke the deadlock in sensational fashion on 19 minutes when his shot from distance was on its way to the net, only for Shels goalkeeper Greg Murray to produce an excellent save. From the resulting corner, a goalmouth scramble ended with Aidan Collins clearing the ball off the line.

Greene, who along with Mulhall looked dangerous throughout, went close just before the half-hour when he shot on the turn and fired narrowly over the bar. In the 34th minute, Shane Duggan’s effort struck the post and the ball fell for Stephen Kenny, whose goal-bound shot was stopped on the line by Adam O’Connor. When Mulhall hit the post two minutes later, it was beginning to look like being ‘one of those nights’ for Limerick.

From a rare Shels opportunity, James English fizzed down the right-hand side and into the penalty area, forcing a good save from Freddy Hall, who also had to be alert to get his hands to Jamie Doyle’s shot from an acute angle a minute later. Four minutes before half-time, the home side’s pressure finally paid off, and in some style. Shane Tracy’s corner was cleared only as far as Duggan, who skipped one challenge before letting fly with a rocket from almost 30 yards. Murray hadn’t a hope in hell of getting near it.

Within three minutes of the restart, Limerick doubled their advantage. Russell had all the time in the world to deliver a cross to Mulhall, who dispatched the ball to the Shelbourne net with a diving header. The visitors nearly got a quick response as English’s volley needed a last-ditch interception from Paul O’Conor, and at the other end Mulhall was close to getting Limerick’s third, but after rounding Murray he was taken too far wide and his eventual shot was cleared to safety.

The Super Blues had the ball in the net for a third time on 65 minutes. After Murray spilled Tracy’s free kick, Paudie O’Connor forced the ball over the line but he was adjudged to have come back from an offside position. A few minutes later, John O’Flynn and Garbhan Coughlan entered the fray and almost immediately the former had a chance which struck the outside of the post, the returning ex-Cork City striker not lacking in sharpness after his time out through injury.

O’Flynn did find the net with 10 minutes to go, latching on to Duggan’s through ball, but like Paudie O’Connor he was thwarted by the assistant’s offside flag. Shelbourne were still having a go and created two late chances through  Adam Evans and English, but Hall had the measure of both of them. In stoppage time, substitute Dylan Kavanagh cracked a shot off the bar and then the visitors were awarded a penalty, which English hit straight into the gloves of the grateful Hall with the last kick of the game.

Limerick registered their third consecutive 2-0 victory as they prepare for the long trip north to face Derry City in Monday’s EA Sports Cup semi-final. It will be their biggest test of the season to date, but they will go to The Brandywell off the back of another hugely satisfying performance.

 

Limerick FC: Hall; O’Conor, O’Connor, Williams, Tracy; Lynch, Duggan; Kenny, Greene, Russell (Coughlan 69); Mulhall (O’Flynn 69).

Shelbourne: Murray; O’Connor, Collins (Murphy 82), McInteer; Shannon, Boyne, D Doyle, J Doyle (D Kavanagh 61); C Kavanagh (Kelly h-t); English, Evans.

Referee: Marc Lynch

Attendance: 1,272