Limerick picked up their third win of the season on Friday night as they dispatched a disappointing St. Patrick’s Athletic 2-0 thanks to goals from Tony Whitehead and second-half substitute John O’Flynn.
The win is the club’s first since parting ways with manager Martin Russell, who left the club earlier this week, just six games into the season with two wins, a draw and three losses leaving the club seventh in the table.
The manager had led the Blues to the First Division title in 2015 before maintaining Premier Division status last season alongside an EA Sports Cup final appearance.
That League Cup final was a low moment in an otherwise successful season playing in the newly renovated Markets Field, however the defeat came at the hands of St. Patrick’s Athletic who, heading into this game, were high on confidence with back-to-back Dublin Derby victories.
Last week’s stunning 4-0 win away to Bohemians quashed ideas of relegation looming around Richmond Park this season following just one point from the Inchicore club’s opening five games.
The errors which had plagued St. Pats in those early encounters reared their ugly head again in this game, with Liam Buckley’s side losing their third home game at Richmond Park this season with a poor and confusing performance which possessed none of the hallmarks of their domination in Dalymount Park last week.
After a quiet opening period Limerick stole the lead just before the half-hour mark when captain Shane Duggan’s free-kicked crept its way into the bottom corner of Conor O’Malley’s net with the deftest of touches from the boot of Tony Whitehead.
The defender flicked his foot towards the menacing free-kick and managed to change the direction of the ball ever so slightly to put O’Malley off gathering a routine cross into the St. Pats box, giving Limerick the lead heading into the interval.
St. Pats came out fighting in the second half, however, with a litany of close chances. Firstly, Conan Byrne found himself on the end of a well-weighted Ian Bermingham cross at the back post which was steered just wide.
Next midfielder Alex O’Hanlon found a pocket of space inside the box before threading a neat pass to Kurtis Byrne.
The striker curled an audacious effort steering into the top corner before Brendan Clarke heroically clawed the ball out of the air and to safety with an acrobatic save of supreme quality which even the home support could appreciate for the former Saints number one.
Limerick were coming under some serious pressure now as utter chaos erupted inside the box with numerous chances from St. Pats.
Jonathan Lunney danced past numerous challenges in an artful dribble into the box before having his shot barricaded out.
The ball then fell a second time to Alex O’Hanlon, who dummied expertly past two challenges, finally being taken down inside the box before the 21-year-old was given the chance to have a shot at goal — referee Paul McLoughlin, however, waving play on to the groaning outrage of the home support.
The game’s furious tempo did not give up as St. Pats were awarded a penalty when Limerick’s Robbie Williams was deemed to have handled the ball inside the area. Few decisions had gone the Saints way throughout the game, with the home support rejoicing in their new-found luck.
Fortune would not favour the Saints for long however, as Conan Byrne’s spot-kick aimed at the bottom left corner was expertly saved by a brilliant parry from former team-mate Brendan Clarke, who would have faced countless penalties in training from the winger during their shared time at Sporting Fingal and St. Pats.
A bad night was compounded for St. Pats when Clarke’s distribution via a long throw from inside his box sent winger Chiedozie Ogbene sprinting down the touchline before steering a critical cross towards the unmarked John O’Flynn just inside the box.
The second-half substitute did not need two touches, as his first did the damage — the striker side-footing the coolest of finishes under the dive of O’Malley to send the Limerick bench and travelling support into raptures as they earned a first win of the post-Martin Russell era.
St. Patrick’s Athletic: Conor O’Malley; Michael Barker, Gavin Peers, Lee Desmond, Ian Bermingham; Jonathan Lunney (Graham Kelly 69), Patrick Cregg, Alex O’Hanlon (Darragh Markey 81); Conan Byrne, Kurtis Byrne, Josh O’Hanlon (Aidan Keena 77)
Subs not used: Barry Murphy, Rory Feely, Darragh Markey, Billy Dennehy, Sam Verdon
Booked: Ian Bermingham (34), Gavin Peers (57)
Limerick FC: Brendan Clarke; Shaun Kelly, Robbie Williams, Paul O’Conor, Lee J Lynch, Shane Duggan, Tommy Robson, Chris Mulhall (Dean Clarke 69); Chiedozie Ogbene (Ian Turner 88), Rodrigo Tosi (John O’Flynn 73)
Subs not used: Freddy Hall (gk), David O’Connor, Stephen Kenny, Bastien Henry
Booked: Robbie Williams (63)
Referee: Paul McLoughlin
Attendance: 1,300 (estimate)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Brendan Clarke (Limerick FC).