St. Patrick's Athletic secured a one-nil win on Shannonside thanks to a Killian Brennan penalty. The midfielder's spot-kick ensured that the Saints left Thomond Park with all three points.
In a game of little incident, the visitors started the better. It was Killian Brennan who skipped past a couple of challenges on the left before firing a powerful effort at Shane Cusack. The young stopper was equal to the drive however; pushing it to safety.
The Saints' pressure told after twenty minutes when Ian Bermingham's advances were halted by a clumsy challenge Shaun Kelly inside the box. Referee Anthony Buttimer had no hesitancy in pointing to the spot. Killian Brennan stepped up and smashed home; right down the middle.
The visitors' lead was almost short-lived as Joe Gamble produced a beautifully weighted, lofted through ball which found Craig Curran running through on goal. With Brendan Clarke already committed one way, Curran somehow managed to fire his effort straight at the Saints 'keeper – a huge let-off for the away side.
While Limerick searched for an equaliser, dead balls were a powerful weapon in the hands of St. Pat's and they almost doubled their advantage on the half-hour mark. A beautifully whipped corner fom Killian Brennan found Stephen Folan somewhat flat-footed. The Galway native was inches from turning the ball into his own net, as his miscued header from close range almost flew past Shane Cusack.
If the home side were to fight their way back into the tie, Danny Galbraith looked the most likely source of inspiration. His jinking run and cross should have led to an equaliser, but none of his Limerick comrades took the gamble at the far post.
The beginning of the second half started in similar fashion to the first, as Pat's pressed for the insurance goal. It almost arrived courtesy of John Russell's boot. With little or no backlift, Russell saw fit to take aim and the looping effort smacked off the face of the crossbar, much to the dismay of the large vocal support.
Conan Byrne took centre stage just before the hour. Quick thinking from Brendan Clarke released the ex-Sporting Fingal winger and his skill almost produced a goal for his side. Doing well to beat Patrick Nzuzi, Byrne's drilled ball across the six yard box was just out of reach of Chris Forrester, who was making tracks to connect. Inches separated the Irish under-21 international from doubling St. Patrick's advantage.
In an ironic twist, the best chance of the night fell to former Pat's midfielder Stephen Bradley. Some quick thinking from Shane Tracy created space thirty yards from goal. He then produced the pass of the night for Bradley, but an untimely touch and weak effort meant that Limerick were denied once again.
The hosts continued to press and once again that man Shane Tracy was the source of the opportunity. After a needless foul from Greg Bolger, a free-kick was given twenty-five yards from goal. Tracy's deadly left boot swerved the ball towards Clarke but the Pat's netminder was equal to the effort.
With some expert time-wasting and good possession, St. Patrick's saw out most of stoppage time with relative ease, but not before Limerick conjured one more scare. Aaron Brown was left unmarked in the six yard box from a left-sided corner but that headed effort was drilled just too far over the bar to grab that elusive goal.
Pat's probably deserved their spoils, but on a night where little separated the sides, it could have gone either way and the loss will hurt Limerick, who entertain Shamrock Rovers on Tuesday.
Limerick: Shane Cusack; Shaun Kelly (Shane Costelloe 88), Brian O'Callaghan, Stephen Folan, Patrick Nzuzi; Joe Gamble, Stephen Bradley, Shane Tracy; Darragh Rainsford (Aaron Brown 85), Craig Curran, Danny Galbraith.
Subs not Used: Stephen Walsh, Val Feeney, Steven McGann, James McGrath, Barry Sheedy.
Booked: Joe Gamble.
St. Patrick's Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Ger O'Brien, Jake Carroll, Kenny Browne, Ian Bermingham; Shane McFaul (Greg Bolger 73), John Russell; Chris Forrester, Killian Brennan (Sean Gannon 82), Conan Byrne; Christy Fagan.
Subs not Used: Dave Ryan, Conor Kenna, Jordan Keegan, Anthony Flood, Conor Murphy.
Booked: Shane McFaul, Greg Bolger.
Referee: Anthony Buttimer.
Attendance: 3,000 (estimate)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: John Russell (St. Patrick's Athletic).