by Andrew Cuneen/Extratime.ie
Drogheda United responded in the best possible manner after their Cup final defeat with a 1-0 victory at Thomond Park in wicked conditions.
Paul O’Conor grabbed the only goal of the game after David O’Leary was dispossessed on half-way. His strike from distance rolled past Barry Ryan and proved the decisive moment of the tie.
In what turned out to be a wet and windy affair, the opening few minutes were equally as hectic. Axel Bossekota went one-on-one with Michael Schlingermann after being played onside by Alan Byrne. He’ll be disappointed with his effort though, as he didn’t get the power required on the shot to beat the Drogs stopper. Schlingermann gathered comfortably after diving down to his left.
The next clear cut opportunity fell to Bossekota once more, but again he was to be defied by the lack of power on his shot. A corner from the right was floated towards the back post by Shane Tracy. Craig Curran kept the ball alive and headed back towards Bossekota, who just couldn’t find the right connection on the ball to direct it into the net.
The high line Drogheda maintained certainly enhanced their chances of getting something from the tie, and they were rewarded just after the half-hour mark when David O’Leary lost possession just inside his own half after a cross-field ball evaded his control. Paul O’Conor picked up the ball and made strides towards goal. Unchallenged, the former UCD midfielder shot in hope from twenty-five yards and the ball found the back of Barry Ryan’s net. The Limerick stopper will be disappointed he couldn’t keep it out.
Drogheda could have doubled their lead soon after as a free-kick from the left was hauled in towards the penalty spot. Drogheda won the aerial battle and Alan Byrne saw his effort at the back post saved by Ryan before Brady’s follow-up was cleared off the line by Shaun Kelly. Limerick were living dangerously.
Gary O’Neill was the next man guilty of not doubling the Drogs’ lead as he was perfectly placed in the centre of the goal to tap home after some tireless work from Cathal Brady on the right wing. As the ball came across the face of goal, O’Neill peeled away towards the back post and began to shape himself. He completely miscued however, and Limerick got away with another scare.
It’s worth noting that footballing opportunities were limited in the second half due to the blustery conditions. Thomond Park experienced extremely heavy showers for the entire forty-five, and the wind played a massive part in preventing cross-field switches.
Limerick’s old nemesis David Cassidy was tormenting them once again, like he did with Shelbourne in the First Division. His lack of set position allowed him to weave in and out of the Limerick clutches and he found space on the right wing, ten minutes into the second half. His cross was pin-point, but the highly impressive Gavin Brennan couldn’t beat Barry Ryan with his header.
The home side’s best opportunity in the second half fell to Craig Curran just after the hour mark. Danny Galbraith broke down the right wing; burning Phillip Hand for pace. His cross was met by Joe Gamble who put it on a plate for Curran. The Liverpudlian striker couldn’t get his shot away, despite having the goal at his mercy and the chance went to waste.
Limerick’s hope of a comeback was dealt a huge blow when captain Joe Gamble received a second yellow for a poorly-time challenge. Referee Dave McKeon originally played on, before returning to dismiss Gamble after the play had halted. This added to the confusion surrounding the incident.
Drogheda were much the better side in the latter stages. With Limerick throwing everything forward, the Drogs found a lot of space in behind. They couldn’t convert for a second though, despite glorious chances for Gary O’Neill but they did see out the game to claim a big, but deserved three points.
Robbie Williams (Jeffrey Judge 80)
Axel Bossekota (Stephen Bradley 56)
Craig Curran (Rory Gaffney 73)
Stephen Quigley (Brian Gannon 45+4)
Cathal Brady (Graham Rusk 85)