By David Byrne
Limerick FC were officially presented with the SSE Airtricity First Division trophy after a more than convincing 2-1 win over Drogheda United at the Markets Field.
The Garryowen venue saw joyous scenes as Martin Russell’s side lifted the trophy in front of a buoyant home crowd.
Second-placed Drogheda United, who are looking to secure a promotion playoff spot, were given a setback in their quest after first half goals from Paul’ O Conor and Robbie Williams gave the home side the advantage.
Drogheda pulled one back in the dying minutes but it wasn’t enough for Pete Mahon’s side, who will now be looking over their shoulders at UCD and Cobh Ramblers.
Despite going down to ten men just before half-time, Limerick held on and played some fantastic football in the remaining minutes of the game.
Champions Limerick started the better of the two sides and with only one minute gone Chris Mulhall controlled a long ball from midfield but put his effort over the crossbar.
Six minutes later Limerick captain Shane Duggan dragged his shot wide after a brilliantly played corner kick which saw Lee J Lynch step over the low cross.
Robbie Williams doubled his side’s lead with 18 minutes gone when he headed home from a well taken free kick.
Limerick’s good fortune changed in the 37th minute when Chris Mulhall was dismissed after receiving a second yellow card. The former UCD striker was adjudged to have taken a dive after he rounded Drogheda goalkeeper Stephen McGuiness.
In controversial circumstances, referee James McKell showed Mulhall a second yellow card after consulting his linesman Dermot Broughton.
Pete Mahon made two substitutes for the County Louth side at half-time and in particular, Sean Thornton added some much-needed creativity to the Drogheda midfield.
The home side seemed understandably reluctant to push forward in the second half, but despite more possession Drogheda failed to create any significant chances in the early stages of the second half.
Drogheda eventually reduced the deficit with a Sean Thornton header from the back post, but it wasn’t enough to spoil the party for the Shannonsiders.
Drogheda reduced their chances of mounting a comeback when one minute after they scored, club captain Sean Brennan saw red after a poor challenge on substitute Garbhan Coughlan.
Limerick concluded their home campaign with a well-deserved victory and remained unbeaten in the Markets Field this league season.
Martin Russell’s side travel to play Cabinteely next weekend to round up what has been a very successful campaign, which will now see Premier Division football return to the Markets Field next season.
Limerick: Freddy Hall, Shaun Kelly, Robbie Williams, Paudie O’ Connor, Shane Tracy, Paul’ O Conor, Lee J Lynch, Shane Duggan, Aaron Greene (Garbhan Coughlan 87), Stephen Kenny (Sean Russell 77), Chris Mulhall.
Yellow cards: Chris Mulhall (17+37)
Red card: Chris Mulhall (37)
Goals: Paul’ O Conor (9), Robbie Williams (18)
Drogheda United: Stephen McGuinness, Colm Deasy, Kevin Farragher, Jake Hyland (Sean Thornton 46), Mark Griffin, Sean Brennan, Derek Doyle (Stephen Dunne 68), Luke Gallagher, Adam Wixted (Liam Donnelly 46), Aaron Ashe, Richie Purdy.
Yellow cards: Jack Hyland (17), Kevin Farragher (42)
Red card: Sean Brennan (87)
Goals: Sean Thornton (86)
Referee: James McKell
Man of the match: Paul O’ Conor