This was a match that did no one any favours – a no-score bore draw that damaged the prospects of Monaghan United overhauling Derry City at the top of the Airtricity League First Division, did little to help Limerick’s fading promotion chances and severely tested the patience of the fans gathered at Gortakeegan, who were forced to sit through an exhibition of abysmal finishing.
Monaghan United looked a jaded side after playing two away fixtures in three days last weekend, and it was Limerick who did most of the attacking in the first half. It took a full half-hour, however, before there was any significant goalmouth action – Limerick full-back Jeffrey Judge embarking on a spirited run down the flank before cutting across the face of the box and unleashing a shot on the turn that forced United’s Gabriel Sava into a diving save.
A few minutes later Sava was under pressure again, being tested to the limits to hold on to Stephen O’Flynn’s fulminating free-kick that skidded viciously along the turf. The Mons showed much more energy after the resumption, a Cathal O’Connor snap-shot bringing the first save of the evening from Dave Ryan, before Philly Hughes’ header from Shane Grimes’ cross went close. On the hour O’Connor drove over after a neat passing movement in which Aidan Collins and Don Tierney conspired.
United had worked up a good head of attacking steam, and when they forced a defensive error from the visitors in the 68th minute and O’Connor crossed to the unmarked Sean Brennan they appeared set to reap their reward. Brennan, however, stabbed the ball wide of the untenanted net and then sank to the ground behind the goal as the gravity of the miss hit home. Scorning this chance seemed to knock United for six and Limerick, energised by the introduction of substitutes David O’Leary, Shane Clarke and Garbhan Coughlan, took a strong hold on the game.
O’Leary drove a volley just wide on 70 minutes, and Pat Purcell sent a header past the post from a Thomas Lyons cross. Five minutes later, Clarke, who had just come on, had the goal at his mercy but fluffed his close-range finish attempt. United introduced their “supersub” Darragh Hanaphy for the tiring Philly Hughes, but he was a spectator as his side spent the remainder of the match nervously on the defensive. Coughlan shot narrowly wide for Limerick after Sava parried a corner only partially clear.
Then with six minutes remaining, Sean Kelly opened up Monaghan down the left and crossed to the unmarked Coughlan who tried to place his shot in the bottom corner and scuffed it wide. Three minutes from the end Sava produced a fine save to deny Limerick captain Pat Purcell a headed winner.
Monaghan United: Gabriel Sava, Conor McMahon, Shane Grimes, Aidan Lynch, Brian Gartland, Don Tierney, Cathal O’Connor, Stephen McCrossan, Sean Brennan, Philip Hughes (Darragh Hanaphy 79), Aidan Collins.
Subs not used: Ian McNeill, Paul Whelan, Anthony Costigan, David Quirke.
Limerick FC: David Ryan, Jeffrey Judge (Garbhan Coughlan 67), Sean Kelly (Shane Clarke 75), David Rogers, Pat Purcell, Peter White, Bobby Ryan, Thomas Lyons, Stephen O’Flynn, John Tierney, John Sullivan (David O’Leary 57).
Subs not used: Brian O’Callaghan, John McGuinness.
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.