Gary Sheahan 21, 23
No goal conceded in six hours play now for Limerick and on the night it was two goals in three minutes from striker Gary Sheahan helped ten-man Limerick inflict a first league home defeat of the season on Shelbourne at Tolka Park. Sheehan opened the lead with a close range finish in the 21st minute before a blunder by Shelbourne goalkeeper Dean Delaney allowed him to double his tally two minutes later.
Limerick lost Wayne Colbert two minutes before half-time when he saw yellow for the second time. A fantastic penalty save from MOM keeper Dave Ryan with just over 20 minutes left ensured Shels forfeited their place at the top of the eircom First Division to Dundalk.
Limerick, backed by an extremely vocal away support, settled quickly, but the hosts almost took the lead inside the first ten minutes when a deep cross from James Chambers found Freeman unmarked at the back post. The striker’s volley back across goal went narrowly wide.
Flood was next to threaten the Limerick net but his goal-bound header from Chambers’ corner was blocked by Limerick midfielder David Ryan. Despite the pressure they had endured, Limerick still looked a side brimming with confidence after last week’s 4-0 thumping of Kildare County.
And when they got their chance they took it. Brian Cleary’s free-kick was met at the far post but Delaney managed to parry the ball. Somehow, Chukwuma Manjor contrived to miss the rebound but his strike partner Sheahan was on hand to apply a clinical finish.
Only moments after the restart, Limerick were 2-0 in front. Delaney made a complete hash of a backpass and Sheahan showed no hesitation in side-footing the ball past the stranded Shels stopper.
The hosts had a half-chance to pull one back when Anthony Flood sent a knock-down into the middle of the Limerick area but there was no-one in a red shirt coming onto the ball to take advantage.
Sheahan was denied a first-half hat-trick when Delaney came out to smother his shot after a sublime move involving Manjor and David Ryan. Shels were given a glimmer of hope when Limerick midfielder Colbert, who was a doubt before the game with ‘flu, received his marching orders for a second yellow card two minutes before the break.
Home boss Dermot Keely reacted to his side’s first-half display by bringing on recent loan signings Gary McCabe and Dave McAllister. McAllister’s first act in a Shelbourne jersey was a dangerous tackle on Sheahan, which earned him a caution.
Their numerical advantage afforded the hosts plenty of time on the ball, but they were struggling to find ways to break down their well-organised opponents.
While Shels could be accused of lacking invention, the visitors were putting their bodies on the line to protect their lead. Substitute Stephen Goggin offered a prime example of this when in the 66th minute he threw himself in front of a fearsome Freeman drive.
Shels had a glorious chance to get themselves back into the game when they were awarded a penalty after Brendan Daly fouled Damien Brennan outside the box and the referee amazingly awarded a penalty to Shels.
Freeman stepped up to take the kick but his low effort to keeper Dave Ryan’s right-hand side was was brilliantly kept out by the Limerick number one. Dave Ryan again came to Limericks rescue ten minutes from the end when he did brilliantly to get a hand to a McCabe shot that took a wicked deflection off Cleary.
Shels had a couple of attempts late on, but, in truth, a 2-1 scoreline would have flattered them as Limerick were thoroughly deserving of their third league win in-a-row.
The Limerick fans were beginning to dream as chants of “We’re going to win the League” rang around Tolka Park for 15 minutes after the game had finished. If Mike Kerley’s fine young side continue with displays like this we can all begin to dream, with half the season still to be played.
Shelbourne: Delaney; Murphy (McAllister h/t), Byrne, Brennan (C), Hedderman; Chambers, O’Brien (McCabe h/t), McGill, Keddy; Flood, Freeman (Dunne 74)
Limerick 37: Dave Ryan; Daly, Danaher, Barrett, Cleary; Walsh (Hayes 76), Colbert, Hughes, David Ryan (White 51); Sheahan, Manjor (Goggin 44)
Referee: Darren Coombes