It was a frustrating night for Neil McDonald as 10-man Limerick slumped to a 3-0 home defeat.
Dundalk eased past Limerick as Neil McDonald’s tenure in charge of the Super Blues began in disappointing fashion. Two goals from Dave McMillan and a late Sean Gannon goal provided Stephen Kenny’s men with the result.
In an opening fifteen minutes of few chances, a speculative shot by Patrick McEleney was the only chance either team could muster.
A moment of madness ultimately cost Limerick in the 18th minute of the game. A long ball caught the Limerick defence out of position.
Sweeping goalkeeper Brendan Clarke beat chasing Dundalk winger Jamie McGrath to the ball but could only place his clearing header into the path of Robbie Benson.
Benson tried to lob the backtracking Clarke, who handled the ball outside his box and was deemed to be last man before being sent off by referee Paul McLaughlin.
Approaching the half hour mark, Dundalk were awarded a penalty as both Paul O’Conor and Barry Cotter were sent the wrong way by a Patrick McEleney dummy and in a desperate attempt to make up for his mistake, Paul O’Conor fouled the former Derry man inside the box.
Dave McMillan coolly sent Freddy Hall the wrong way to put Dundalk ahead.
Shortly afterwards, Dundalk doubled their lead. Dave McMillan headed home from a Michael Duffy cross from the right, to grab his second goal of the game.
Limerick began the second-half with a 5-2-2 formation, with Dean Clarke and Tommy Robson playing as two wing backs. Chiedozie Ogbene joined Chris Mulhall as a second striker with Duggan and Hery occupying relatively deep midfield roles.
It was clear that the coaching staff wanted to give Dundalk something to worry about defensively, in order to prevent an inevitable onslaught on Freddy Hall’s goal for the whole second-half.
Five minutes into the second half, Dundalk left-back Dane Massey whipped a cross into the box which Dave McMillan directed onto the top of the crossbar but failed to score. Almost immediately, a poor clearance from Robbie Williams allowed Robbie Benson to shoot straight at Freddy Hall.
Lively winger Michael Duffy created the visitors next chance when he easily bypassed youngster Barry Cotter before squaring the ball across the six yard box.
Dean Clarke almost turned the ball into his own net at the back post. Duffy’s opposite winger Jamie McGrath played a clever through ball to Robbie Benson, who forced an agile low save from Freddy Hall.
Limerick front man Chiedozie Ogbene worked tirelessly for the home side with the aim of providing respite for his defence. He was the only source of escape for the Shannonsiders.
The impressive Dave McMillan provided Chris Shields with a great chance, but the defensive midfielder scuffed his shot in the six yard box. With ten minutes remaining, Michael Duffy’s free-kick was headed straight at Freddy Hall by two-goal hero Dave McMillan.
Dundalk completed a satisfactory night with a beautifully worked third goal in the last minute of normal time. Neat interplay between Michael Duffy and Sean Gannon resulted in the latter slotting the ball under the advancing Freddy Hall.
A mixture of poor finishing and Limerick’s second-half workrate, restricted Dundalk to one late goal. However, the Lilywhites did not have to emerge from second gear during the second period.
Neil McDonald’s reign begins with a disappointing result. Two naïve moments certainly contributed heavily to the defeat. Brendan Clarke’s sending off along with the concession of a poor penalty, ensured there was no chance that the Shannonsiders would cause last season’s league champions any trouble.
Limerick FC: Brendan Clarke, Paul O’Conor, Barry Cotter (Ian Turner 78), Robbie Williams, Tommy Robson, Shane Duggan ©, Bastien Hery, Lee-J Lynch (Freddy Hall, 19) Chiedozie Ogbene, Dean Clarke, Chris Mulhall (Rodrigo Tosi 67).
Subs not used: Dave O’Connor, Tony Whitehead, Tobiaz Kainz, Stephen Kenny.
Yellow Cards: Robbie Williams (34) , Shane Duggan (82)
Red Cards: Brendan Clarke (18)
Dundalk FC: Gary Rogers, Niclas Vemmelund (Sean Gannon 67), Paddy Barrett, Sean Hoare, Dane Massey, Chris Shields, Patrick McEleney, Robbie Benson (Stephen O’Donnell 60), Jamie McGrath, Michael Duffy, Dave McMillan (Ciaran Kilduff 85).
Subs not used: Gabriel Sava, Conor Clifford, Keith Dalton, Thomas Stewart.
Yellow Cards: Chris Shields (17), Patrick McEleney (40), Niclas Vemmelund (65)
Red Cards: None
Referee: Paul McLaughlin
Sporting Limerick Man of the Match: Michael Duffy (Dundalk)