Defender Robbie Williams conjured up a moment of magic as his stunning 83rd-minute volley rescued Champions Limerick as they got out of jail to keep their unbeaten record intact with a 1-1 draw against Shelbourne at Tolka Park on Friday night.
Watch the goal, below.
The Shannonsiders – with the league title already in the bag and on the back of their EA Sports Cup final defeat last weekend – were slow out of the traps and had Freddy Hall to thank early on as he blocked Adam Evans’ shot in a one-on-one.
Hall, though, was beaten in the 23rd minute when a lapse in concentration from Paudie O’Connor allowed Evans possession close to goal and he this time beat the Bermudan.
That deficit could have been more on the half-hour when Dylan Kavanagh rocketed a free-kick off the crossbar, with Limerick’s only real chance coming shortly after that as Chris Mulhall and Aaron Greene combined well to set up Garbhán Coughlan but he did not have the power to trouble Killaloe native Jack Brady.
Ross Mann was introduced at the break but Limerick still struggled to find their rhythm, and they should have been further behind following a Shels break on 81 minutes but Gavin Boyne fired over when he looked certain to score.
That kept Limerick in it and they punished that miss moments later when Lee-J Lynch delivered a corner which was knocked on to the back where Williams unleashed a sumptuous volley to the net, as his sixth goal of the year saw the dream of an unbeaten league season remain on.
Prior to the game, Limerick were forced into a late change to their starting lineup as top scorer John O’Flynn failed to come through the warm-up having been struggling with a calf injury, with Mulhall coming in to replace him.
And that reshuffled team could have found themselves behind inside five minutes when Evans picked up possession in the Limerick half and ran at goal, getting into the box and firing a shot which Hall did well to get behind and push wide.
Shels gave Limerick another scare on 12 minutes when the ball went all the way to James English in the six-yard box and from close in he shot off the underside of the crossbar, although the linesman’s flag was up in any case.
As the Champions struggled to find their groove, Shelbourne took the lead midway through the first half when a lapse in concentration from O’Connor gifted possession to Evans close to the visiting box and he punished the mistake, running in and firing past Hall.
The home side went close to doubling that lead on the half-hour when Kavanagh stood up and struck a terrific 25-yard free-kick which crashed back off the crossbar with Hall beaten.
Limerick produced their first real moment of trouble for the Shels defence on 36 minutes when Mulhall’s fancy flick sent Greene past his man in the box but after squaring for Coughlan the shot did not have enough power to seriously worry Brady who saved. Brady then spilled a cross just before the break but Mulhall, off balance, was unable to capitalise.
At the interval, Mann replaced Coughlan. But while Limerick controlled much of the possession in the second period they created little in an attacking sense. Indeed, with nine minutes remaining the game should have been put to bed when a good move from the hosts ended with Lorcan Shannon squaring for Boyne but somehow he managed to blaze over in front of goal.
And within two minutes Limerick were level. Lynch’s corner from the left was knocked on and sat up for Williams who volleyed a stunning equaliser to keep the Shannonsiders’ hopes of becoming the first League of Ireland team in 89 years to go unbeaten through a season alive.
Shelbourne: Jack Brady, Lorcan Shannon, Jack Tuite, Aidan Collins (Conor Keeley 87), Reece McEnteer, Daire Doyle ©, Gavin Boyne, Dylan Kavanagh, Carl Walshe, Adam Evans, James English. Goal: A Evans (23). Booked: None. Unused Subs: Greg Murray (GK), Michael Kelly, Dylan Grimes, Ryan Robinson, Robert Duggan.
Limerick: Freddy Hall, Paul O’Conor, Paudie O’Connor, Robbie Williams, Seán Russell, Shane Duggan ©, Lee-J Lynch, Shane Tracy, Aaron Greene, Garbhán Coughlan (Ross Mann HT), Chris Mulhall. Goal: R Williams (83) Booked: A Greene (43), S Duggan (74). Unused Subs: Tommy Holland (GK), Tony Whitehead, Val Feeney, Seán McSweeney, Clyde O’Connell, Killian Brouder.
Referee: Simon Rogers.
Report Date: Friday 23 September 2016