Not even the floodlight failure at Thomond Park could prevent Drogheda United continuing their fine start to the season. A solitary goal from Declan O’Brien was enough to sink Limerick, as the home side were left to regret some big missed opportunities.
The game started brightly, a high tempo with plenty of pressing from both sides; neither side could hold onto possession for long enough to create anything of note.
Rory Gaffney, known for his fantastic foot-work at times, helped create the game’s first opening. He spun past two Drogheda players before laying the ball off to Tracy, who found Shaun Kelly raiding forward. The full-back controlled well but fired his shot at Dave Ryan. The re-bound fell to Kelly, who fired straight at Ryan once more and United scrambled the ball clear.
Declan O’Brien had threatened the Limerick rear-guard early on, as Gavin Brennan looked to get the better of Shaun Kelly down the left. But it was from the right-hand side where Drogheda would gain the lead.
A cross looked to be easy to deal with for Barry Ryan, but a mix-up meant the ball fell kindly for ‘Fabio’ and O’Brien had no hassle in poking home from three yards. In a fairly even opening half-hour, Drogheda were thrilled to be in-front.
James McGrath, the hero of last week, almost doubled his tally for the season. Shane Tracy delivered a sumptuous cross, McGrath headed the ball quite well, but Ryan pushed the ball over for a corner, a fine save from the ex-Limerick man.
After the interval, Limerick began to assert themselves more, but were susceptible to Drogheda on the counter-attack. Alan McNally nearly doubled the lead with a header, but Ryan pushed the ball over after a wicked bounce almost deceived him.
The introduction of Craig Curran seemed to galvanise the Blues somewhat, but he was adjudged to have used his hand when he went one-on-one with Ryan.
On 69 minutes, Limerick had their chance. Captain Duggan chested the ball in the area, took it wide and fired just inches wide with his right foot. Everything was fantastic, except the finish, leaving fans and players with heads in hands.
Daire Doyle thundered a shot at Barry Ryan and soon after O’Brien should have doubled the lead, Ryan saving with his feet this time.
The introduction of Tam McManus was almost short lived. With 10 minutes remaining, the flood lights went out. After nearly ten chilly minutes, the lights were back on, as was Limericks quest for an equaliser.
Gary O’Neill went into the book and from the resultant set-piece Shane Tracy saw his free-kick well saved by Ryan. Seconds later McManus scored, but the Scotsman was disappointed to see the assistant referee with his flag aloft.
As time ran out, Limerick could do little more to find an equaliser, and Drogheda closed out for a second away win since last May. Barry Ryan’s first error meant his brother Dave went away with all three points.
Limerick’s unbeaten home run of five games comes to an end.
Tam McManus makes his debut for Limerick FC.
Drogheda United keep their third clean sheet in a row against Limerick, winning all three games.
Limerick: Barry Ryan; Shaun Kelly, Sam Oji, Stephen Folan, Patrick Nzuzi (Robbie Williams 80); Shane Tracy, Shane Duggan (c), Jason Hughes; Darragh Rainsford (Craig Curran 50), James McGrath (Tam McManus 74), Rory Gaffney.
Subs not used: Shane Cusack, Prince Agyemang, Tony Whitehead, Garbhán Coughlan.
Drogheda United: David Ryan; Gavan Holohoan, Alan McNally, Ciaran McGuigan, Shane Grimes; Cathal Brady (Carl Walshe 87), Daire Doyle, Eric Foley (Stephen Maher 77, Gavin Brennan; Gary O’Neill, Declan O’Brien (Austin McCann 90+3).
Sub not used: Dylan Connolly, Paul Crowley, Paul Andrews.
Booked: G O’Neill (82)
Referee: Graham Kelly
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Shane Duggan (Limerick FC) – He worked tirelessly, was at the heart of most good play from Limerick and was unlucky not to find the net.