Limerick FC were defeated 0-1 by Derry City at the Markets Field on Friday night as a goal from Ronan Hale midway through the first half was enough to secure an overdue victory for the Candystripes. The win takes them 15 points clear of their opponents with three games remaining. Limerick have games against Cork City, St. Patrick’s Athletic and Waterford FC remaining while keeping one eye on the first division play off ties.
Limerick FC were without the services of regular striker Conor Ellis through illness and with Danny Morrissey lacking match fitness, midfielder Barry Maguire started in an unusual role as the front man for Limerick flanked by both Will Fitzgerald and Karl O’Sullivan. Shane Duggan was tasked with supporting Maguire while Darren Murphy and Cian Coleman were anchoring the midfield in front of the defence.
In the early stages, a lack of intensity and pressing from Limerick allowed Derry to play through and around them far too easily. Frustrated by the ease at which the visitors were slicing through them, Cian Coleman began to advance but as a result, Nicky Low and Aaron Splaine were able to take the midfielder out of the game with one pass.
The movement of Ben Fisk and Ronan Hale was causing big problems for Limerick and Fisk played Hale through on goal but goalkeeper Tommy Holland was equal to the shot. Moments later, Fisk cut inside Tracy far too easily before drawing another save from Holland.
The game had the feeling of a pre-season friendly with neither side having an awful lot to play for on paper. However, Limerick’s lack of energy in the first half was worrying as Derry have so much quality in the team despite their poor from.
Limerick were sorely lacking a mobile striker on the pitch as possession was turned over far too easily while the visiting back four were allowed too much time on the ball despite Shane Duggan pressing with Maguire in the final third. Maguire’s lack of physicality and mobility in his unfamiliar role resulted in a comfortable night for center-backs Eoin Toal and Darren Cole. In fact, Kenny Shiels men had too much time on occasion as sloppy passes out of defence to Splaine and Low in midfield may have been punished by a more potent attacking unit.
The home side were restricted to a few dangerous deliveries across the six yard area on the rare occasion that full backs Shaun Kelly and Shane Tracy were able to advance in the first half. Unfortunately, nobody was in the vicinity to convert. In truth, the Shannonsiders were lucky to escape with a one goal deficit as Aaron McEneff and Ben Fisk had further chances for the Candystripes.
In the second period, it was clear to see that Derry had eased off, allowing Limerick to play in the midfield area without ever threatening in behind. The visiting colleagues in the media box were very critical of Kenny Shiels team in the second half and felt the effort was indicative of the team’s poor form in recent months. Shane Tracy forced a great save from Ger Doherty with a free kick.
The best chance of the evening fell to Karl O’Sullivan as a Tracy cross was flicked in the winger’s direction but he failed to score from six yards out. It has been a frustrating time for O’Sullivan and Fitzgerald who have been impressive this season but have struggled to contribute with goals and assists. However, it was always going to be difficult for the duo considering the league position this season. The aforementioned chances were the closest the Super Blues came to stealing a point from the game.
It was quite surprising to see Danny Morrissey only named on the substitutes bench by Tommy Barrett for the encounter. Morrissey was the only striker in the match day squad but was apparently unable to train properly all week so was named as a substitute. It seemed a strange decision to place an unfit player on the bench and the former Cork City man was introduced with ten minutes to go in search of an equaliser.
Surely, it made more sense to start Morrissey as he badly needs minutes on the pitch. Barrett has stated on several occasions that he feels Morrissey is not fit enough to start games. The striker suffered an injury against Waterford in May but has been in squads consecutively for the past three months. It will worry Limerick supporters if the second choice striker is still viewed as unfit at this stage of the season with a vital play off game on the horizon.
Limerick will travel to Turners Cross next Friday night to face second place Cork City in the league. Limerick must be focused and driven for the final three weeks of the campaign as they will be facing a side full of confidence in the promotion/relegation playoff at the end of the month. Also, one of Finn Harps, Shelbourne or Drogheda will have at least two high intensity games under their belt. It will be impossible for Limerick to flick a switch for the two legged affair if games against Cork and St. Patrick’s Athletic are dull affairs. The Martin Russell led team were too casual in their approach to the warm up in Ballybofey in 2015 while their opponents were raring to go. If that type of attitude creeps in to the final weeks of this season, the same fate awaits the class of 2018 as was experienced by their predecessors.
Limerick FC: Tommy Holland, Shaun Kelly, Killian Cantwell, Colman Kennedy, Shane Tracy, Cian Coleman (Danny Morrissey 85), Darren Murphy, Barry Maguire, Shane Duggan, Will Fitzgerald, Karl O’Sullivan.(Billy Dennehy 79)
Yellow Cards: Will Fitzgerald (19), Karl O’Sullivan (76)
Derry City: Ger Doherty, Jamie McDonagh, Danny Seabourne, Darren Cole, Eoin Toal, Nicky Low (Ady Delap 78), Dean Shiels, Aaron McEneff, Aaron Splaine, Ronan Hale, Ben Fisk.
Yellow Cards: Danny Seabourne (2), Jamie McDonagh (41), (Dean Shiels 77)