LIMERICK FC POSTED a 1-0 win over Finn Harps in Monday night’s first leg of the SSE Airtricity League final at Markets Field – here’s five things we learned.
1. Limerick are very dangerous going forward …
When Shaun Kelly’s thunderbolt flashed past Ciaran Gallagher and into the top corner of the Harps net on 34 minutes, it was a goal that was coming.
Right from the start, the side managed managed by Martin Russell were on the front foot and saw Damien McNulty clip his own crossbar with an excellent interception to avert a certain goal from Dean Clarke and Packie Mailey had to then clear from his own line to prevent Vinny Faherty scoring.
Clarke and Ian Turner on the flanks were impressive to begin with and caused Harps, who essentially started with a six-man midfield, numerous problems.
Harps manager Ollie Horgan admitted afterwards that there was a difference in class, although correctly commended his side for their resolute defending. Clarke was eventually substituted and Harps were a little more comfortable in the second half than they were in the first.
But a word of warning, Limerick have scored 15 times in their last five away games in the Premier Division.
2. … but will give you a chance
Monday night, in may ways, was peculiar. Despite having less of the possession and being up against the wall for spells, Harps had the two best chances of the match.
So, it was a contest that the Ballybofey side might’ve drawn as easily as lost by more than the one goal they did.
Nathan Boyle found the ball at his feet at an uncompromising angle moments after Shaun Kelly’s goal, when the Limerick right-back headed a backpass over his goalkeeper, the advancing Freddy Hall. Boyle didn’t get enough on his shot and Patrick Kanyuka mopped up the danger.
Then, with 13 minutes to go, BJ Banda got away from Hall, who was charging from his goal. Again, Harps were presented with what was an open goal. Banda, just 17 remember and having made a positive impact from the bench, took the shot early whilst unbalanced and Limerick had a let-off.
It’s a ‘point on the curve’ question for Ollie Horgan.
His side might well create chances should they dare to push on early but at the same time could get punished for over-committing. Limerick, 1-0 up, could play it one of two ways as well – either wait till Harps come out on them, or try and double their advantage from the off. That would give Harps a mountain to climb.
3. The Great Escape is still on
After 21 games, Limerick had yet to win in the Premier Division and when Shaun Kelly joined from Derry in July, it was considered he was practically on his way onto a coffin ship.
But as Kelly said on Monday after scoring the winner, a win of any sort then was going to give Limerick confidence.
Since August, the Munster side have picked up an incredible 27 points from their last 12 games to avoid automatic relegation and force their way into the relegation play-off.
That said, Harps should not forget their conclusion to the campaign. Monday night was their first defeat in 10 fixtures, since going down 2-0 at Wexford Youths in August.
4. Battered and bruised
Ollie Horgan must have one huge push from a squad that have emptied the tank on so many occasions all season. The 0-0 draw on the first night of the season against Shelbourne in March at Tolka Park seems like an awful long time ago.
It was pleasing to hear there was an overnight stay on Sunday ahead of the Limerick fixture.
At the minute, there’s a 72-hour turnaround and the majority of the Harps players were back in work at 9am on Tuesday – less than six hours after making it back through the thick fog from Limerick. It’s jet-lag without the jet.
Kevin McHugh wasn’t fit to take part on Monday night and Raymond Foy only was able for 28 minutes. Michael Funston and Damien McNulty both played through the pain barrier.
One man who certainly won’t feature tomorrow night is Nathan Boyle, whose season is over following a hamstring injury and he’s in need of a long-standing jaw operation. Boyle put in a tireless shift on Monday in that lonesome role.
McHugh is bound to have some sort of role on Friday night and in Banda, Horgan has a willing running who certainly endeared himself to the Finn Park support with two goals on his home debut against Wexford Youths.
5. Making the 12th man count
The capacity of the Markets Field is 3,700 yet on Monday night there were over 5,000 there. The home support – ably assisted by the visiting fans it must be said – made for a fantastic atmosphere and it showed the capabilities of both clubs.
Last Friday in their second leg again UCD, Harps weren’t putting in one of their best performances of the campaign and there was reason to fret when the Students levelled the tie through a Jamie Doyle header.
But buoyed on by a support that was announced officially as 2,013, Harps won through 2-1 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate with Nathan Boyle and a wonderful Josh Mailey goal sealed the win.
Limerick fans are expected to travel to Ballybofey in huge numbers and there travelling party is expected to be somewhere between 200 and 400.
Ollie Horgan this week, acknowledging there will a few newcomers in the home support perhaps, this week pleaded for patience from those shouting for his team.
Maybe that’s an indication of a conservative approach to begin with?
Positive energy from the swollen home support can certainly play a part.Tags: