‘League of Ireland leaders Limerick United and their ace goalscorer Tony Morris ended a memorable 1979 with a flourish when they efficiently saw off the championship challenge of Sligo Rovers at the Markets Field yesterday.’
That was how the Irish Press led their New Year’s Eve report, after the meeting of the teams on Sunday 30 December ‘79.
It continued: ‘The 25-year-old Morris brought his season’s tally to 14 with what might qualify as the freak goal of the year. But it was the teak-tough midfielder Tony Meaney who did most damage to Sligo when he smashed home two penalties to complete an extraordinary week.’
Over the previous seven days, Limerick had hammered UCD 7-0 in Dublin before putting Drogheda United to the sword with a 4-1 win in Louth four days later.
This report noted that: ‘Meaney also converted two controversial spot-kicks against Drogheda last Thursday and his first penalty after 42 minutes yesterday brought a storm of protests from the Sligo camp.’
Referee Paddy Daly, the man who also awarded those spot-kicks on Thursday, had no hesitation in indicating a penalty after a Ger Duggan cross struck Tony Stenson very high up on the arm – or possibly even on the shoulder.
Raged Sligo manager Patsy McGowan said: “It was a disgraceful decision. The ball clearly hit Tony on the shoulder. The mark was there for everyone to see. That decision changed the entire course of the game for we had been comfortably holding Limerick up to that stage. I am very upset by the whole thing.”
In front of a crowd which provided gate receipts of £5,100, the game appeared to be heading for a scoreless first half until the award of a penalty on 42 minutes. Meaney converted.
Ten minutes after the restart it was 2-0. Sligo midfielder Tony Fagan hit a mis-directed cross-field pass at the halfway line, straight onto the head of Duggan who nodded it forward. Stenson unbelievably missed his clearance and Morris was allowed to race away.
However, the shot by the Limerick forward was blocked by Paul Fielding and the ball rebounded to Donal O’Doherty whose attempt at lashing the ball clear amazingly rebounded off Morris and flew into the net.
Kevin Fitzpatrick then denied Gary Hulmes – who would go on to sign for Limerick later in the season – and he produced a superb one-handed stop to deny substitute Paddy Sheridan.
Brendan Bradley then saw a header cleared off the line before Limerick wrapped up the points on 82 minutes when, after a Morris cross was handled by Fielding, Meaney again fired in the penalty, this time off the upright.
Sligo scored a late consolation when Bradley expertly chested down a Fagan pass and fired a shot from 15-yards past Fitzpatrick.
Limerick went on to claim the league title that season under Eoin Hand, ending a 20-year wait, while Sligo finished just inside the top half, in eighth, some 16 points behind the Champions.
Limerick United: Fitzpatrick, Ryan, Fitzgerald, O’Mahony, Hand, Meaney, Nolan, Morris, Kennedy (Matthews 75), Walsh, Duggan.
Sligo Rovers: Patterson, Fielding, D. O’Doherty, Fagan, Rutherford, Stenson, McLoughlin (Sheridan 62), Patton, Bradley, G. Doherty, Hulmes.
Referee: P. Daly (Dublin).
In this Saturday’s edition of our Matchday Magazine ‘Into The Blue’, we look back on Limerick’s first ever league meeting with Sligo, on 30 December 1937, along with our other league clash in 1979/80 at The Showgrounds. Pick up your copy at the Markets Field (kick-off 6.30pm).
Date: Wednesday 29 July 2015