Limerick 2-2 Galway United
A few months ago with their mid table status looking secure and European qualification seeming to be a realistic ambition, you would forgive most supporters for feeling that there would be much more than Premier Division survival on the line as their side lined out for the final time this season at the Market’s Field.
But a mid-season downturn in form meant it was their top flight status that was on the line last Friday night, as The Super Blues withstood a second half comeback from Galway United to earn them a vital point which guarantees it will be Cork City and not Cobh Ramblers who Limerick will contest the Munster Derby with in 2018.
The first of three penalties on the night saw Rodrigo Tosi open the scoring before Chiedosie Ogbene doubled the home side’s lead just before halftime, only for the Tribesmen to fight back in the second period through Ronan Murray and an Eoin McCormack penalty to salvage a draw which keeps their slim hopes of avoiding the drop alive.
Unlike the home side, a draw wasn’t going to be enough for Shane Keegan’s charges who sit in the final relegation spot and their need to win was shown in their early domination of the contest, Kevin Devaney setting up David Cawley on 12 minutes beautifully only for the Mayo man to shoot wide.
United continued their onslaught throughout the opening half hour, and despite the possession being close to 50/50, the Tribesmen seemed to be the only ones really pushing for the lead, Rory Hale coming close on two occasions from range, while Gavan Holohan was only denied by a great save from Brendan Clarke.
Limerick were let off the hook once more on 31 minutes, as a Ronan Murray header was saved on the line before making its way to Holohan who duly smashed it home, however it was quickly ruled out for offside due to it taking a touch on its way to the Kilkenny man.
Despite not threatening for most of the half, Neil McDonald’s charges would soon make the Tribesmen pay for their lack of finishing, when Lee Lynch found Stephen Kenny in the corner, before crossing it for Chiedozie Ogbene, only to be fouled by Galway captain Colm Horgan.
Rodrigo Tosi stepped up to the spot, and with his second penalty in as many games buried the ball down the middle to give his side the lead on 35 minutes.
The Super Blues would double their lead minutes later, as Kenny and Tosi linked up inside the box to cut open the Galway defence, as Kenny once more crossed to set up an unmarked Ogbene at the back post, as this time the Nigerian born striker blasted home to leave it 2-0 at the break.
The Super Blues were well on their way to successfully beating the drop, yet a determined Galway side weren’t going to sit back and give their hosts an easy win knowing well a loss could have seen them relegated the next day following a win for Sligo Rovers, and they were given a lifeline just after half time.
A long ball forward from Colm Horgan found its way eventually into the path of defender Sebastian Hery, and his poor back pass was intercepted by Ronan Murray, the Mayo man turning quickly and shooting to bury the ball home past substitute keeper Freddy Hall on 47 minutes.
Knowing a point was enough to secure Premier Division football, McDonald’s charges seemed content to sit back and soak up any pressure that came their way in the second half, defender Joe Crowe coming on for midfielder Shane Duggan being an example of this shift in mentality.
Yet to their credit, they did look menacing on the rare occasions they attacked, as was seen when a clearance from Galway keeper Conor Winn fell at the feet at of Ogbene, who was denied his second of the night by a superb save from the former Shamrock Rovers shot-stopper on 64 minutes.
Many of the away fans questioned Anthony Buttimer’s call to give Limerick a penalty, yet they too were just lucky to receive one themselves with just under 20 minutes remaining, as Marc Ludden fell in the box and the Cork man pointed to the spot.
Murray stepped up to take his most important spot kick to date, but for the second week in a row the former Ipswich Town player would miss as Freddy Hall pulled off a fantastic save, to the jubilation of the 1600 strong home crowd.
But there was to be another twist in the tale of this entertaining encounter, as with eight minutes to go on the clock we had the game’s third penalty of the night, as Hall couldn’t deal with a long range effort from Horgan, taking out Murray as he went for the ball in the air, resulting in a yellow card and the first penalty call that couldn’t be argued over.
Manager Shane Keegan took a huge gamble and changed the penalty taker from Murray to Eoin McCormack, but his gambled paid off as the Ballinasloe native got the vital equaliser.
In a game full of penalty calls, it would come as no surprise that there was one more right at the death, as McCormack looked to have been pulled down but after awarding three already Buttimer wasn’t interested as instead he blew the full time whistle.
Neil McDonald will be happy to have finally secured his side’s safety, albeit with just one game to spare, but will hope his charges can go out on a high note when they make the trip to the capital to face Shamrock Rovers in the final game of the season on Friday night.