Simon O’Gorman reports from St. Colman’s Park
A single Kieran Hanlon goal proved the difference on a sunny winter afternoon at St Colman’s Park on Saturday as recently relegated Limerick FC overcame their hosts Cobh Ramblers.
It was Cobh’s last game in their programme of pre-season friendlies and manager Stephen Henderson used the occasion to spread out the game time among his squad.
Limerick boss Tommy Barrett also made use of the match to blood an entire bench of substitutes as the serious business of league football looms on the horizon.
Ramblers were the first to threaten when Nathan West, newly arrived from Rockmount, forced Jack Brady to tip his low shot around the post. Killian Brouder, who was excellent throughout, denied Rams striker James O’Driscoll with a saving header from the subsequent corner.
But on 20 minutes it was the visitors who broke the deadlock when the flame haired Kieran Hanlon nodded in from six yards out after Robbie Williams’s skewed shot turned itself into a pretty decent cross.
The skies darkened after half an hour both literally and metaphorically. As rain threatened newly signed defender Eoin O’Donovan signalled to the home bench that he needed to be replaced.
And ten minutes later West was also forced from the field after an awkward tumble under a challenge from Williams left him nursing a damaged shoulder.
In between these misfortunes, the young Rams winger Denzil Fernandes probably should have drawn Cobh level, but after a melee in the area following a corner, he blazed over the crossbar from about six yards. Still, Fernandes was among Cobh’s brightest sparks on an afternoon that owed more to effort than inspiration.
Limerick made four changes at the break and followed that up with four more as the game progressed. Among the earlier batch of replacements was ex Cork City striker Conor Ellis who added a sense of danger to the Blues’ front line.
Tomas O’Connor, on for Williams at centre back, also impressed in the second period.
But again, it was Cobh who began the half on the front foot. Just three minutes in Michael O’Rouke was presented with a golden opportunity to level the scores when he got on the end of Matthew Lambe’s free kick, but managed to head the ball up and over the bar from point blank range.
After that clear chances for either team were rare and a low sun behind the Limerick goal hardly helped as Cobh continued to chase an equaliser.
In truth it was Limerick who looked sharper and more dangerous with Sean McSweeney in particular proving an irritant to the Rams defence. A well timed block from James McSweeney denied the Limerick man on 77 minutes and in the closing stages they came close a couple of more times.
A weak backpass almost let in Ellis with four minutes left but Cobh ‘keeper Adam Mylod just about beat him to the ball. Edmund O’Dwyer shot wide moments later and McSweeney fired over a minute after that.
In the end Limerick just about deserved their narrow victory but both managers will be pleased that their squads worked up a healthy sweat in a competitive, if unexciting, contest.
Cobh Ramblers: Adam Mylod; Stephen Christopher, James McSweeney, Charlie Lyons, Eoin O’Donovan (Stephen O’Connor 30); Denzil Fernandes, Nathan West (Stephen Kenny 40), Matthew Lambe (Shane O’Connor 84), Michael O’Rourke (Trialist A), Stephen O’Leary (Ian Turner 58); James O’Driscoll (Cian Leonard 58).
Subs Not Used: Paul Hunt (gk), Ben O’Riordan, David Hurley, Greg Henry, Jaze Kabia.
Limerick FC: Jack Brady (Tommy Holland 46); Shaun Kelly, Robbie Williams (Tomas O’Connor 46), Killian Brouder, Shane Tracey (Aaron Fitzgerald 65); Gary Matthews (Karl O’Sullivan 46), Jason Hughes, Sean Russell (Edmund O’Dwyer 71), Colm Walsh O’Loghlen (William Fitzgerald 60); Adam Foley (Conor Ellis 46); Kieran Hanlon (Sean McSweeney 60).
Subs Not Used: None.
Referee: Graham Kelly
Attendance: 100 (estimate)
Extratime Man of the Match: Killian Brouder (Limerick).