For the connoisseurs of football and the way it should be played this was the game to be at. Both teams played stunning football throughout the game much to the joy of the crowd present. Even throughout a prolonged 25-minute torrential downpour in the first half and a difficult breeze they never let up.
The Hoops’ management couldn’t have been happy though with the lack of progress in the opening half but at least the players were playing what they had been thought in principal. They began with a slow and patient build up from the back out; held possession well, maybe too well at times and it wasn’t until Rhys Murphy’s shot on target in the 9th minute that either side had a serious go.
The Hoops applied a lot of pressure from the start but it was the visitors who had the first corner which came in the 11th minute. Hoops’ keeper Kalvin Geraghty was called into action in the 21st minute when Brian Aherne forced him into a mighty save that went for a corner kick.
The players and match officials had to contend with a prolonged thunderstorm that you wouldn’t leave your dog out (the officials changed into fresh tops at half time) but still the teams continued to dish up some really good stuff. It was worrying for the Hoops that Limerick had taken the upper hand in the middle of the park and they didn’t really trouble the Limerick goal up to half time.
The rain cleared away during the half time break, the officials returned with their flashy new tops and Rovers came back out a new team almost. Rhys Murphy and Kenny Cunningham were both carrying minor injuries and were replaced at half time by Adam Murphy and Jack Kelly respectively.
Kelly hadn’t played a number of weeks after injuring his elbow in training and he had an immediate impact upon his return. The winger’s continued runs into the Limerick box caused the opposition major headaches; it was something they didn’t have to deal with in the first half.
Within minutes of entering the fray Kelly won a free kick which Dean Williams crashed off the Limerick defensive wall. The Hoops had more fire in their bellies in midfield too with both Jack Priestly and Conor Behan winning critical balls and laying these on for the wide players.
Adam Murphy, in what was only his second game for the Under 17s, proved to be an absolute torment down the left wing. When Emmanuel Odeniyi set up Murphy in the 52nd minute the tricky winger fired at goal but ‘keeper Michael Garrihy got the save in. At this stage of the game Limerick were under siege and were finding it hard to get out of their own half; it was such a contrast to the first half when the game was much more open.
Twelve minutes into the second half the visitors did have a brilliant chance when Dylan Kelly Higgins supplied Bradley McNamara with a good chance but the striker couldn’t keep it down and sent the ball over the bar. Rovers upped the pressure on Limerick further when they brought on the lively James Clarke who, as always, had an immediate impact.
The Hoops had a dramatic let off in the 72nd minute with the game still scoreless when centre half Adam O’Connor made a timely intervention to clear the ball off the line.
Two minutes later they withdrew left full Eric Abulu and introduced midfielder Thomas Hannon, going to three at the back. Two minutes after that Clarke might have opened the scoring with a powerful header but was foiled by Garrihy, however Hannon reacted quickly and picked O’Connor out at the far post and the centre half met the ball with his head to neatly direct it into the back of the net to break the deadlock.
The game had once again become more open and there was a lot of defending at both ends but the Hoops had got the vital goal and they worked to protect their lead to eventually claim all three points. Well done to both sides for providing us with some brilliant entertainment this afternoon.
Shamrock Rovers: 30. Kalvin Gergahty; 2. Darren Prendergast, 4. Andy Spain, 5. Adam O’Connor, 3. Eric Abulu; 20. Emmanuel Odeniyi, 6. Jack Priestly, 15. Conor Behan, 17. Rhys Murphy, 11. Kenny Cunningham; 9. Dean Williams.
Substitutes: 25. Gavin Bazunu, 7. Jack Kelly (for R. Murphy h.t.), 10. Jordan Tallon, 16. Thomas Hannon (for Abulu 74 mins), 18. Adam Murphy (for Cunningham h.t.), 19. James Clarke (for Odeniyi 59 mins).
Match report and photos by Robert Goggins.