Photo courtesy of Oisin McHugh Photography: https://www.
A tremendous strike from Rob Lehane proved decisive as Cork City left Thomond Park with a hard-earned three points. The win cuts Dundalk’s lead at the top to just three points as the title race enters the final stretch. Lehane struck just as it looked as though Limerck, who battled admirably throughout, looked set to take a point.
In what was a dull opening half, neither side managed to carve out a clear cut opening until near the half hour mark. Cork’s Billy Dennehy, playing in an advanced role throughout, raced by Leahy only to be foiled by Barry Ryan who used his body well to keep it scoreless.
Rory Gaffney had Limericks best opening, when he held off Michael McSweeney and fired powerfully at McNulty. The in-form striker made the ‘keeper sweat for the first time in a tense and cautious first half. Derek Tomney waved away penalty appeals for the Rebels as Patrick Nzuzi blocked a cross with his hand. However a spot kick would have been harsh as Nzuzi tucked his arms in by his side.
A brace of efforts from Agyemang, who was superb in possession throughout, meant Limerick finished the opening exchanges on the front foot. Neither effort worried McNulty, however.
The sides exchanged yellow cards after the restart, with Colin Healy happy that referee Tomney halted play, as Limerick were in a 3-on-2 situation. The whistle was met by groans from the rather low home support.
Michael McSweeney, who deputised for the suspended Darren Dennehy, was by now on terms with the in-form Gaffney. The lack of creativity in the final third proved to be Limericks main problem in a fascinating game.
Mark O’Sullivan should have struck at goal when free on the edge of the box, but Shane Tracy did well to rob the striker of the ball and deny a near certain goal. But City didn’t have to wait long to find the winner.
Substitute Lehane took the ball in his stride and despite appearing to use his hand; he fired low and accurately beyond Ryan. The veteran stopper could do little to prevent the strike. Cue wild celebrations in front of a delirious East Stand.
A plethora of substitutions soon after helped disrupt the tempo of the game as Cork took their time while taking kick-outs, throw-ins and free-kicks.
A tame effort from Rainsford was about the best Limerick could manage as the Rebels saw out the game with relative ease. Five added minutes were not enough for Limerick to gain a draw, something which they have yet to achieve under Martin Russell.
John Caulfield applauded the vocal travelling support as he marched off. Those City fans now believe that they are capable of winning a title which didn’t seem feasible six months ago.
Limerick FC: Barry Ryan; Patrick Nzuzi, Stephen Folan ©, Michael Leahy, Shane O’Connor; Prince Agyemang, Shane Tracy (Sam Oji 80), Lee-J Lynch, Jack Doherty (Darragh Rainsford 57), Kieran Djilali (Ross Mann 80); Rory Gaffney.
Subs not used: Shane Cusack (gk), Val Feeney, Tam McManus, Colm Murphy
Booked: O’Connor (61), Agyemang (81)
Cork City: Mark McNulty; John Dunleavy ©, Dan Murray, Michael McSweeney, Ross Gaynor; Liam Kearney (Rob Lehane 59), Colin Healy, Gearóid Morrissey, Josh O’Shea (John Kavanagh 82), Billy Dennehy (David O’Leary 85); Mark O’Sullivan.
Subs not used: Kevin O’Brien (gk), Cillian Morrison, Danny Morrissey, Gavin Kavanagh
Booked: Healy (63)
Referee: Derek Tomney
Attendance: To be confirmed
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Prince Agyemang (Limerick)