Drogheda United moved up to third in the SSE Airtricity League campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Limerick at Thomond Park tonight.
Declan O’Brien’s 30th-minute strike proved sufficient for the Boynesiders to claim their first away victory in the league since May of last year and preserve the team’s unbeaten start to the season in the process.
Captain Gavin Brennan and O’Brien returned to the starting lineup for the trip to Munster following suspension and injury respectively.
Michael Daly, who scored in United’s 1-1 draw with Derry City last Friday, sat out through injury, while Carl Walshe dropped to the bench as Robbie Horgan’s only two changes from the stalemate with the Candystripes last time out.
United, whose last win on the road came on this ground 11 months ago, enjoyed plenty of possession in the opening exchanges but it was the hosts who fashioned the game’s first opportunity on 13 minutes.
Shaun Kelly had the chance courtesy of some nifty footwork by Rory Gaffney, but goalkeeper Dave Ryan – who enjoyed a six-year spell with the Blues – thwarted his former club by denying the defender twice in quick succession.
There was contrasting fortunes for Ryan’s brother, Barry, in the opposite goal later in the half, as a mistake from the elder of the two siblings led to Drogheda opening the scoring.
The 35-year-old failed to gather a routine cross before O’Brien pounced on the error and tapped into an empty from four yards on the half-hour mark.
However, the veteran shot-stopper atoned for the incident before and after the half-time whistle; first by denying Gary O’Neill prior to the interval before tipping Alan McNally’s header over the bar on 53 minutes.
Stuart Taylor’s men began to force the issue and should have been rewarded for their perseverance on 70 minutes, only for Shane Duggan to fluff his lines in a one-on-one with Ryan by thrashing narrowly wide of the mark.
The encounter was temporarily suspended as a result of a floodlight malfunction, but Drogheda’s quest for the win never dimmed as Tam McManus had an equaliser ruled out for offside when play resumed.
The hosts pressed for a late leveler but Horgan’s charges held to move behind Shamrock Rovers and Cork City in the standings.
by Robert O'Reilly
Drogheda United will look to get back to winning ways as they travel to Thomond Park to face Limerick on Friday, kick-off 7.45pm.
Having won their opening league game 4-1 against Dundalk, Drogheda have recorded successive draws against Bohemians and Derry City to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.
United will be without the injured pair of Michéal Schlingermann and Philly Hughes while Paul Crowley is still recovering from a pelvic injury. Michael Daly is also a slight doubt for the Drogs who welcome back Declan O’Brien and Gavin Brennan from injury and suspension respectively.
Drogheda have only recorded one away win in the league in the last ten months, since they defeated Limerick 1-0 courtesy of a Paul O’Conor strike.
The Boynesiders took seven points from the three games the sides played last season which included an emphatic 3-0 win at United Park towards the latter end of the campaign.
As for Limerick, manager Stuart Taylor is yet to see his side win this season but he will be buoyed by their 1-1 draw away to St. Patrick’s Athletic last Sunday.
The blues are expected to be at full strength for the visit of United as they aim to climb up the league with a more youthful side than last season.
Speaking ahead of the game, Drogheda boss Robbie Horgan was confident that his side will perform better on Friday than they did in their last outing against Derry City.
“We never got going against Derry last Friday. We created very few chances, wasted possession when we had the ball but on the plus side we defended quite well having been under pressure for so long. We got a point that may not have deserved but it is important to move on and focus on this week.
“We will be going down to Limerick looking for the three points and we will be set-up with an attacking mindset. I watched Limerick at the weekend against St. Pat’s and they played with a very defensive system. I would assume that they will be more open playing us at home but we see this as a game that we can win and that is how we will approach it.
“Physically, Limerick are a very strong side particularly their two centre-backs. I wouldn’t say they have recognisable names but I can see them replicating their mid-table finish of last season. They were ahead of us in the league last year and we are trying to change that this season.
“If results are anything to go by, I think there will be a lot of upsets this year. Cork have gotten off to a great start, as have Shamrock Rovers while Dundalk have shown the benefits of winning a game rather than having two draws. The draws that we have had this season have been good results but nothing beats a victory and the three points that go with it.”
James McGrath (Tam McManus 74’)
Darragh Rainsford (Craig Curran 50’)
Eric Foley (Stephen Maher 77’)
Cathal Brady (Carl Walshe 87’)
Declan O’Brien (Austin McCann 93’)
Declan O’Brien 30’
Gary O’Neill 82’