Shelbourne kept alive their chances of promotion by overcoming a weakened Limerick side in Jackman Park by a single goal to nil on Friday night.
The home fans may well question the decision to leave out their main striking option, Stephen O’Flynn whose influence would have surely made more of an impact. Scully opted for youth with Garbhan Coughlan coming into the eleven alongside debutant left back, Andrew Bhandarkar.
In what has been a common theme for Limerick this year, they began on the back foot at home, allowing Shelbourne to run at them. From what seemed a harmless cross from Ray Scully, the ball was adjudged to have struck the arm of Limerick captain Pat Purcell. Despite the protests, the referee was never going to change his mind. Up stepped David McGill to roll the ball calmly past Dave Ryan in the Limerick goal.
The onslaught from the home side began here. Attack after attack from Limerick brought no rewards for them, as many aimless crosses and misdirected through balls failed to find a man, with Limerick becoming frustrated for the majority of the first half. However, their first scare arrived in the first half as a long range effort from Jeffrey Judge should have been routine for Shels stopper Dean Delaney, however, he managed to spill the ball to the feet of Tierney who appeared to have been dragged down. The challenge was deemed legal, and Callanan waved play on much to the rage of the home support.
The closest Limerick would come all match would arrive ten minutes before the break from a set piece. A foul on John Tierney gave the home side a chance to shoot at goal on the edge of the area. Limerick native Bobby Ryan stepped up to blast the ball. The shot somehow found its way past the outside of the wall, and struck the far post. The ball was cleared by Stephen Paisley before any Limerick player could convert the rebound. The Reds went into the interval a goal to the good but under severe pressure.
As the teams re-emerged, Limerick introduced Peter White. White replaced youngster Bhandarkar as the left back’s debut was brought to a close after the first half. Pat Scully hoped that last years Wexford Youths player of the year could find the key to unlock the Shelbourne resistance.
The first real chance of the second half fell to Garbhan Coughlan from a Shane Tracy cross, the ball went harmlessly wide however. Limerick were beginning to turn the screw, but Shelbourne were dealing with the threats with a mixture of determination and luck.
On the hour mark, the home fans got what they wanted, the introduction of Stephen O’Flynn. Greeted by a massive cheer from the home support, O’Flynn has a habit of scoring against Shelbourne, scoring a hat-trick last year in Tolka Park in that memorable three-all draw. Some fans will feel his introduction was too late to make any real difference to proceedings and that he should have undoubtedly started from the first whistle.
The game turned into a feisty encounter as both David Cassidy and Pat Purcell were booked. The crimes were a harsh challenge on Garbhan Coughlan and a body check on Mark Leech respectively. Real passion began to flow on and off the pitch as both sets of fans were in full voice.
The best chance of the second half fell to Jeffrey Judge. Shane Tracy produced the cross of the match to find Judge at the back post, unfortunately for the home side a poor contact on the ball resulted in the ball skidding wide of Delaney’s post.
Shelbourne seemed quite content to soak up the pressure, as new-boy Darren Coleman was introduced. His powerful effort produced a great stop from the Shels keeper to deny him a debut goal. In the meantime, Philly Gorman had gone down injured after coming on only moments before, he was replaced by striker Robbie Farrell.
Shelbourne’s last scare came from a cross once again, after a scuffle in the area, the ball fell to the head of Bobby Ryan. His loping header seemed to have been destined for the top corner, but Delaney acrobatically tipped it wide, maintaining Shels lead.
As the board revealed four minutes, Shelbourne defended well, and kept the ball next to the Limerick corner flag for as long as possible. They saw out the game to claim a valuable one-nil win which sees the second playoff spot go down to a monster clash in Tolka Park next Saturday.
Limerick FC: David Ryan, Sean Kelly, Andrew Bhandarkar (Peter White 46), Brian O’Callaghan, Pat Purcell, Jeffrey Judge, Bobby Ryan, David O’Leary (Darren Coleman 74), Garbhan Coughlan (Stephen O’Flynn 61), John Tierney, Shane Tracy.
Subs Not Used: David McGrath, John McGuinness.
Shelbourne: Dean Delaney, Stephen Quigley, Gareth Whelan, Ian Ryan, Stephen Paisley, Paul Shiels, David McGill, David Cassidy, Mark Leech (Philip Gorman 74, Brian Farrell 82), Marc Hughes (Colin O’Brien 67), Ray Scully.
Subs Not Used: Eric Foley, Stephen Williams.
Referee: Keith Callanan (Cork).
Official Attendance: 430.