Limerick FC 1 – 2 Shamrock Rovers
Played in bitterly cold conditions at Limerick University this afternoon, the Hoops got their 2018 league campaign off to a positive start with this fully deserved win.
The first half was fairly tight with James Clarke testing Limerick ‘keeper Michael Garrihy as early as the 2nd minute. The next opportunity fell for the home side four minutes later when debutant Cian Kelly produced a great intervention to quell the run of Brian Ahern at the expense of a corner. Almost immediately after that Garrihy was forced into action at the other end again when Luke Turner stretched him with a header. Limerick then had two frees awarded both of which were taken by Filip Mostowry but neither presented any real danger.
Thomas Hannon and Clarke were involved in a movement on the left stemming from a free taken by the former and which again saw Turner get a header to the ball but it again went over the bar. In the 27th minute Alex Dunne sent a screamer of a shot across the box but there wasn’t a Rovers’ player close enough to get a touch to it. Centre forward Danila Bogdanov, another debutant for the Hoops, performed very impressive throughout, creating and providing. In the 29th minute Bogdanov burst through the Limerick defence and shot from a tight angle but a defender got a touch just in time to clear the ball off the line. Minutes later when the ball broke in favour of Mikey Conlon for Limerick Kelly again produced a good piece of defending to concede a corner. Rovers looked to be in a spot of bother again in the 37th minute with Tony Mumbauana running in on goal unmarked but Gavin Bazunu produced a piece of excellent judgement and bravery by going down and reclaiming the ball from Mumbauana’s feet.
The second half was slower to get going and the first real opening came in the 52nd minute when Hannon shot wide from a free. Within a minute the game exploded into life when Bogdanov, in a wide left position, quickly switched the ball under pressure back in to Clarke who in turn picked out Martins who had made a burst through the defence. The left wing back drove the ball into the box from the left where it was met by Conor Behan, who had made a brilliant run in on goal from the middle and met it with his head to score the opening goal.
The home side were still reeling from that when Bogdanov drove his shot off the crossbar. This was soon followed by another super delivery from Dunne into the box from which Clarke hit the side netting. The Hoops were in fifth gear at this stage with Limerick offering little of the fight they had shown in the opening forty-five minutes.
Shortly after Ahern drove wide for Limerick, Hannon conceded a soft penalty which was well-taken by Conlon who sent Bazunu in the wrong direction. It was game back on again but the Hoops restored their advantage in the 81st minute when substitute Jack Kelly was set up by Bogdanov and proceeded to dance past a couple of defenders on the end line before picking out the unmarked Martins who showed a great steadiness and calmness before knocking the ball into the net to make it 2-1. Limerick didn’t recover
after that and at the end of the 90 minutes there could be no denying the Hoops what was a deserved win.
Overall, this was a very satisfying win. Opening fixtures can be very tricky, especially away from home. Limerick have always been a difficult side to come up against. There was so much for Stephen Rice and his management to be pleased with, not least the performances of Alex Dunne and Luke Turner, both of whom came into the squad from last year’s Under 15s.
TEAM: 1. Gavin Bazunu, 2. Martins Olakanye, 3. Alex Dunne, 4. Andy Spain, 5. Cian Kelly, 6. Conor Behan, 8. Thomas Hannon, 9. Danila Bogdanov, 10. James Clarke, 14. Emmanuel Odeniyi, 16. Luke Turner.
The substitutes were: 25. Shane O’Rourke, 7. Dean McMenemy (replaced Behan in the 76th minute), 11, Jack Kelly (replaced Odeniyi in the 65th minute), 17. Jordan Tallon, 20. James Furlong (replaced Spring in the 81st minute).
Match Report and Photos by Robert Goggins.