Andrew Dempsey reports from Carlisle Grounds
Bray Wanderers succumbed to defeat against an utterly dominant Limerick side at the Carlisle as they all but confirmed their place in next year’s First Division.
First half goals from Barry Maguire and Conor Ellis set the tone for an easy win for the Shannonsiders at the seaside.
Starting off the better side, Limerick took a firm control of the game’s proceedings early on as they looked to punish some slack Bray defensive play with the Blues wide man Karl O’Sullivan running riot down the Bray left-hand side.
O’Sullivan had the first chance of note in the game as he got on the end of a bouncing ball to see his fierce effort being tipped away by the inexperienced Mark O’Connor in the Wanderers goal.
Bray soon reacted with a half-chance of their own as the threatening Sean Harding saw his strike blaze over the bar moments after O’Sullivan’s inventive effort on goal just before the quarter hour mark.
A ferocious Blues took a well-earned lead in the 19th minute via a Barry Maguire tap-in. Shane Duggan danced his way around a hapless O’Connor in the Bray goal to find the unmarked Dutchman Maguire who stroked his effort home into an open net.
It was a deserved lead for Tommy Barrett’s side and they could have easily grabbed a second just minutes afterwards as Conor Ellis saw his gilt-edged chance hit the side-netting of O’Connor’s goal as the Seagull’s were all at sea defensively.
With the Wanderers firmly on the back foot, Killian Cantwell went close as his free header was gratefully collected by a fortunate O’Connor in the Bray goal towards the car-park end of the ground in the 25th minute in a blistering spell of pressure from the Blues.
As the game approached the interval, Limerick grabbed their second and deserved insurance goal through former Cobh Ramblers striker Conor Ellis in the 43rd minute.
After a devilish run past Kevin Lynch, the impressive Karl O’Sullivan sent a teasing ball into the Bray six-yard box as Conor Kenna made a mess of a routine clearance before Ellis smacked home from close-quarters.
Bray, to their credit came out a better side in the second half without really showing any real sense of cutting edge up top as manager Gary Cronin reverted to a three-man defensive structure.
While they looked solid, defensively at least, Cronin’s young side looked to be lacking ideas when it came to the final third as Ger Pender and Jake Ellis failed to force their way past a stubborn Limerick rear-guard.
While they seemingly lacked ideas, they were creating chances at least, Jake Ellis forced a smart save from the relatively quiet Tommy Holland in the Limerick goal as his striking partner Pender’s rebound effort went harmlessly over the Blues shot-stopper’s goal.
With the game petering out somewhat following Limerick’s dominant first-half spell, Harding and Ellis both went close for the Seagulls, but their efforts went in vain as the Blues held firm to grab a crucial three points at the Carlisle Grounds.
While Bray can still mathematically catch Limerick in 9th place, they currently lie 12 points behind the Shannonsiders with just four games to play with a major goal difference figure to catch up on as they look all but down and out.
Bray Wanderers: Mark O’Connor; Kevin Lynch, Conor Kenna, Sean Heaney, Sean Harding; Rhys Gorman, Jake Kelly (Ger Pender, 36), Darragh Noone, Paul O’Conor (John Sullivan, 69), Jamie Crilly (Byron O’Gorman, 77); Jake Ellis.
Subs not used: Jack Kelly, Darragh Gibbons, Glen Hollywood, Dragos Mamolinga.
Booked: Darragh Noone (61).
Limerick FC: Tommy Holland; Shaun Kelly, Killian Cantwell, Killian Brouder, Shane Tracy; Cian Coleman (William Fitzgerald ,72), Shane Duggan, Barry Maguire (Danny Morrissey, 80), Darren Murphy, Karl O’Sullivan; Connor Ellis.
Subs not used: Jack Brady, Colm Walsh O’Loughlan, Adam Foley, Aaron Fitzgerald, Colman Kennedy.
Referee: Anthony Buttimer.
Attendance: 450 (Estimate).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Karl O’Sullivan (Limerick).