Two magnificent free kicks from Shane Tracy and two more goals from Axel Bossekota put Bray Wanderers to the sword at the Carlisle Grounds on Sunday afternoon, as Limerick FC recorded their third win of the season and rose to sixth place in the table.
Limerick may have taken to the field with their players sporting an array of novelty haircuts but there was nothing trivial about a first half performance that yielded three goals against a Bray side that conceded seven last week to Shamrock Rovers and who must be getting tired of picking the ball out of their net.
The irony was that Bray came ever so close to taking the lead themselves after 40 seconds of play when Kevin Knight’s sweeping cross from the left was volleyed ferociously off the angle of bar and post by striker Jason Byrne.
After that early scare Limerick stabilised and took the lead on 17 minutes when Danny Galbraith played in Axel Bossekota and the Belgian deftly chipped the ball over home keeper Darren Quigley.
Jason Byrne might have pulled his side level when he took advantage of a weak back-pass by Shane Costelloe, but the ball cannoned off keeper Barry Ryan and out over the end-line before Byrne could turn it into the net. Moments later Limerick were two up when Tracy crossed from the left and Bossekota was again on hand, this time side-footing a volley beyond Quigley.
Again Bray responded positively with Ismahil Akinade failing to make the best of a quick break prompted by Gary Dempsey and, one minute later, Byrne forcing Ryan to turn his low shot around the post. But on 35 minutes the result was all but secured when Shane Tracy fired a magnificent free kick directly to the net from 30 yards out and wide on the right.
Bray competed well as the second half opened and created a number of half chances. Kieran Marty Waters shot over on 52 minutes and Dean Zambra didn’t make a solid enough connection when diving to head Dave Webster’s cross straight at Ryan.
In truth Bray lacked sufficient bite in front of goal and had suffered too many senior moments in defence, a lethal combination against a team as hungry and energetic as Limerick, and the Blues underlined their dominance when adding a fourth on 64 minutes.
Danny Galbraith was fouled by Peter Thomas and Shane Tracy took the free, bending a sublime effort into the top right corner of the goal. Still Bray pressed forwards, unbowed by the scale of the deficit, and they might have salvaged a couple of goals but for the excellence of Limerick goalkeeper Ryan.
Bray Substitute John Mulroy took advantage of a lapse in judgement by Brian Callaghan to set up Akinade whose well hit shot was pushed away by Ryan at full stretch. Jason Byrne then blasted the rebound off the post and away from an acute angle. With eleven minutes to play Ryan tipped an effort from Waters onto the bar. Five minutes later Ryan dived low to touch Waters’ shot around the post and followed that up with a reaction save from Akinade’s header after the Bray striker rose to meet the subsequent corner.
In the end it was an emphatic win for Limerick but the performance of his Bray side will have both infuriated and encouraged Pat Devlin.
Bray Wanderers: Darren Quigley; David Webster, Danny O’Connor (Paul Malone 68), Peter Thomas (Danny Joyce 72), Kevin Knight; Daire Doyle (John Mulroy 64), Dean Zambra, Gary Dempsey, Kieran Marty Waters; Jason Byrne, Ismahil Akinade.
Subs not used: Stephen McGuinness, Conor Early, Paul Moffatt, Sean Hurley.
Bookings: Akinade (43).
Limerick FC: Barry Ryan; Shaun Kelly, Brian O’Callaghan (Pat Purcell 78), Stephen Folan; Danny Galbraith (Val Feeney 88), David O’Leary, Joe Gamble, Shane Tracy, Shane Costelloe (Darragh Rainsford 66); Craig Curran, Axel Bossekota.
Subs not used: Shane Cusack, Aaron Brown, Pat Purcell, Rory Gaffney.
Bookings: Curran (23), Folan (54), O'Leary (86).
Referee: Graham Kelly.
Attendance: 450 (estimate).
Extratime Man of the Match: Barry Ryan (Limerick FC).