Two of this season’s predicted title challengers, bitter rivals Fairview Rangers and Pike Rovers played out a 1-1 draw at the Fairgreen on Thursday night.
With Fairview looking to avoid a second defeat to title rivals in a week, it always promised to be a full blooded display. Last season’s Lawson Cup winning captain John Mullane set the tone with a committed display. Normally a centre-back, the hard working player partnered Jeffrey Judge in midfield and was imperious in the air as well as in the tackle.
Mullane should have put Fairview ahead as he met a cross from James Fitzgerald but the midfielder appeared to jump too early and couldn’t get enough direction or power on his header.
Shortly afterwards, last season’s Limerick District League Player of the Season Steven McGann tested Aaron Savage who just managed to keep his dipping effort out.
Last season’s Premier Division top goal scorer Johnathan Grant was played though but Savage managed to get a touch to deny the low strike.
Despite dominating possession, Pike were not creating many chances in the final third. Eoin Hanrahan had beaten Dermot Fitzgerald, who was surprisingly named at left-back, a few times and this seemed the best avenue for Pike but wasn’t utilised enough as the half went on.
Daragh Rainsford had been quiet but skinned Pike centre-back Eddie O’Donovan before Neville punched his curling effort clear as the half time whistle was blown.
Early in the second period, Mullane’s low drive was saved by Neville as the home side looked the more likely to break the deadlock.
Moments later, Jason Purcell’s side took the lead as O’Donovan’s poor clearance was seized upon by Ross Mann but despite O’Donovan recovering to block Mann’s shot, Jeffrey Judge followed up and superbly volleyed the loose ball into the bottom corner.
Fairview looked extremely comfortable and had stopped the supply to Johnathan Grant who cut an isolated figure all evening. Pike were far from their fluid best and AJ O’Connor could have ensured victory for the Fairgreen outfit but he glanced a header wide from a James Fitzgerald cross.
Purcell’s team were dealt a hammer blow as we approached the last 5 minutes when O’Donovan played Ian Fletcher through on the left flank and he produced a super cross for substitute Evan Patterson who managed to guide the header past Aaron Savage.
Fairview were reduced to ten men when Paul Danaher was adjudged to have fouled Neville after the goalkeeper collected a shot after a brief spill in the box and the former Limerick FC man was shown a second yellow card. Shortly afterwards, referee John McNamara blew the full-time whistle.
On the balance of play and league position, Robbie Williams will probably be the happier of the two managers with the draw.
Fairview Rangers: Aaron Savage, Jamie Enright (Brian Fitzgerald), Mark Slattery, Paul Danaher, Dermot Fitzgerald, John Mullane (Adam Frahill), AJ O’Connor, Jeffrey Judge, Daragh Rainsford, Ross Mann, James Fitzgerald (Jason Lipper)
Pike Rovers: Gary Neville, Wayne Colbert (Evan Patterson), Pat Mullins, Eddie O’Donovan, Ian Fletcher, Conor Kavanagh, Shane Walsh, Colin Daly (Oisin Kelly), Eoin Hanrahan, Steven McGann, Johnathan Grant