Quick second-half goals swung this Under-19 Champions Knockout Phase semi-final in Saint Patrick’s Athletic’s favour as they beat Limerick by a harsh 3-0 scoreline at Hogan Park on Sunday afternoon.
Limerick – unbeaten in ten games since Christmas – had been on top in the early stages although it was the visitors that went closest to scoring when Paul Rooney met Darragh Markey’s free-kick and the ball crashed off the underside of the crossbar and back out.
At the other end, Conor Maguire had a header from a Seán McSweeney corner cleared off the line and then Ross Mann saw his shot from close in saved by Lee Doyle.
But into the second half, St. Pat’s took over and opened the scoring from Markey’s corner as the ball appeared to go in off the unfortunate Paudie O’Connor. Then Jamie McGrath’s fine play set up Paul Bracken for an easy finish past the hour mark.
And – after Mann and Oisín Kelly had good opportunities to reduce the deficit – the Saints made certain of progression with substitute Stephen Ball’s near-post strike six minutes from time.
For the game, manager Tommy Barrett welcomed O’Connor – who has been a regular figure in Martin Russell’s first team this term – back into the side, in one of two changes to the quarter-final lineup as Ross Fitzgerald also came in. Replaced were James Duggan and the suspended Jack Lynch.
And it was the young Shannonsiders that started the brighter, though there was little in the way of noteworthy chances early on. The first shot on goal came 20 minutes in when Val Feeney looked to catch the ‘keeper out with a free-kick from distance but Doyle gathered.
On 28 minutes, McGrath’s cross was deflected just over the bar by Mark Hoban. Then came Rooney’s acrobatic effort which bounced down off the bar but, with appeals from the visitors that the ball had crossed the line, the referee waved play on.
On 34 minutes, McSweeney’s in-swinging corner was met by Maguire but he could not add to his six goals this season as a combination of the St. Pat’s ‘keeper and defence cleared off the line.
Then Liam McCartan’s pull-back was into the path of Mann but he struck at Doyle from six-yards, in the last opening of the first half.
But 11 minutes after the break, St. Pat’s made the breakthrough when Markey’s corner into the box went into the net off O’Connor. Three minutes later, Limerick had Tommy Holland to thank for keeping them in the tie when he twice brilliantly denied Rory Feely who had got clear on goal.
On 61 minutes, McGrath’s run created a chance for Bracken but he curled an effort at Holland. Within moments, though, McGrath’s skill presented another opportunity for the Saints No9 and this time he could not miss from close range.
Mann’s left-wing cross was attacked bravely by substitute Kelly but Doyle came out to block, as Limerick searched for a way back into the game.
They went close on 71 minutes when a corner to the back was retrieved by Duggan whose cross back in was met by O’Connor whose header flashed narrowly off target. Then Kelly’s delivery from the right picked out Mann but his effort did not have the necessary power to seriously trouble Doyle.
On 83 minutes, Feeney’s cross found Kelly in acres of space but he got it all wrong. And then the game was over as a contest as Ball got in on the left of the box and finished confidently past Holland.
Limerick continued to go forward for a consolation and they should have been awarded a penalty when Killian Brouder’s shot struck a hand, while the last opening fell to St. Pat’s but Markey was denied by Holland deep in injury-time.
The Dublin club now progress to the final where they travel to Derry City, who beat Shamrock Rovers 5-2 on Sunday. Well done to Tommy Barrett, his players and everybody involved in a fantastic season for Limerick, who finish the campaign as Southern Elite Division Champions.
Limerick: Tommy Holland, Conor Maguire © (Shane Lowth 82), Paudie O’Connor, Mark Hoban, Killian Brouder, Ross Fitzgerald (Declan Cusack 65), Clyde O’Connell (Killian Hayes 82), Liam McCartan (Oisín Kelly 62), Val Feeney, Ross Mann, Seán McSweeney (James Duggan 65). Booked: C O’Connell (37), C Maguire (48). Unused Subs: Arkadiusz Mamala (GK), Stephen Nolan.
Saint Patrick’s Athletic: Lee Doyle, Jordan Delamere, Mikey Hannigan, Curtis Murphy ©, Paul Rooney, Craig Hanlon (Ian O’Brien 88), Rory Feely (Ryan Ennis 90+4), Jack Bayly (Fuad Sule 84), Darragh Markey, Jamie McGrath (Stephen Hogan 88), Paul Bracken (Stephen Ball 73). Goals: P O’Connor (56 OG), P Bracken (64), S Ball (84). Booked: R Feely (68), C Hanlon (78). Unused Subs: Tommy Ilunga.
Referee: Patrick Gleeson (Clare).
Report Date: Sunday 19 April 2015