By Shane McNamara
Limerick FC rebounded from their first league defeat of the season with one goal win over bottom of the table Athlone Town at Markets Field.
Martin Russell’s side came in to this fixture looking to turn their fortune around following a run of less than stellar form. Athlone visited Markets Field with their place at the foot of the league not boding well for the Midlands side.
The champions started the brightest with some fluid play down the left side resulting in Aaron Greene and Colm Murphy presenting difficulty for the Athlone defence.
Limerick dominated the opening period in terms of possession and chances created with Ross Mann, Garbhan Coughlan and Paudie O’Connor all going close as well as Aaron Greene and Colm Murphy being a constant threat.
Athlone were not without their chances but they were very few and far between in the first half. Neither side could break the deadlock and the game was scoreless at the break.
There were no changes at half time and Athlone started the second half in a much more positive fashion with lone striker Jason Lyons forcing a corner early on.
The introduction of Chris Mulhall for Limerick on the hour mark almost paid dividends as his reverse pass played Shaun Kelly in to the Athlone box but his shot was parried by goalkeeper Dylan Owens and cleared off the line.
Seven minutes later it was Athlone who almost broke the deadlock. Substitute Ioras Oyeniyi made his way in behind the defence and his pullback to winger Claudio Silva produced a fantastic reflex save from Tommy Holland in the Limerick goal.
In true end-to-end fashion the game was treated to another great save. Owens was on hand to deny Man of the Match Aaron Greene in the 69th minute to keep the scores tied at 0-0.
Limerick finally opened the scoring seven minutes later. Shaun Kelly’s out-swinging cross was met at the edge of the box by the head of substitute Paul O’Conor whose relatively tame header was spilled in to the net by the Athlone goalkeeper to gift the champions the lead.
Athlone tried to mount a fightback with Oyeniyi continuing to provide problems for Limerick down the left hand side.
They almost drew level after Jason Lyons drew a foul on the edge of the Limerick area. The subsequent free kick was hit low and hard by winger Ryan Gaffney but it was met by a fantastic diving save by Holland.
Limerick managed to hold on and secure a 1-0 victory, their first league win in their last three games whereas Athlone are without a win since they defeated fellow strugglers Cabinteely back in August.
Limerick can now look forward to their final home game against Drogheda on Saturday evening where they will be officially presented with the SSE Airtricity League Division One title following a powerful season.
Limerick FC: Tommy Holland, Shaun Kelly, Tony Whitehead, Paudie O’Connor, Colm Murphy, Ross Mann (John O’Flynn ’60), Lee-J Lynch, Shane Tracy (c), Aaron Greene (Paul O’Conor ’70), Garbhan Coughlan, Sean McSweeney (Chris Mulhall ’60)
Athlone Town: Dylan Owens, Danny Molloy, David Brookes, Joe Moloney, Roy King, Chris Reid (Ioris Oyeniyi ’63), Claudio Silva, Ian Fletcher (C), Jason Lyons, Cormac Raftery, Ryan Gaffney (Conor Barry ’87)
Referee: Andrew Mullally
Man of the Match: Aaron Greene (Limerick)