A crowd of over 2,000 turned out to witness the return of football to the Markets Field, and while the bulk weren’t satisfied with the result, the visitors won’t mind as they produced an efficient performance to bring the three points back to the Boyne.
Goals from Michael Daly and Lee Duffy either side of a Paul O’Conor strike meant it was a tenth defeat in fifteen for Martin Russell’s side. The optimism from the equaliser was quickly removed as Duffy struck to move United further away from the relegation mire.
After settling the better, and looking more assured in possession, Drogheda struck with the opening chance of the night. Robbie Williams was harshly punished out wide, and when Sean Thornton rose highest, his header crossed the line, with the aid of the post.
This didn’t seem to deter the home side, however. Half chances for Dean Clarke gave Limerick a foothold, while Captain Shane Duggan consistently made driving runs beyond Sean Thornton.
Clarke’s influence was obvious, he got down the left-wing midway through the half, before squaring to Sean Russell, his initial strike was saved expertly by Michael Schlingermann before the ‘keeper blocked a second effort. The ex-Athlone man was thankful as his defenders denied Kieran Hanlon a certain goal.
Further openings fell for Clarke and Hanlon as the half wore on, but neither made Schlingermann worry too much.
Lee Duffy, who proved elusive on many occasions, got beyond Tony Whitehead but his effort was matched by Conor O’Donnell, who was starting for the first time in three games for Limerick.
The home fans, who had quadrupled in numbers since the defeat to Cork City, didn’t let the deficit get them down. The re-start saw Limerick take the game to Johnny McDonnell’s men, culminating in an equaliser.
Shane Tracy, who hails from close to the Markets Field, delivered an exquisite cross from the left to find Paul O’Conor, who headed the ball beyond Schlingermann. A huge roar, unheard at any Limerick home match for some time, marked Limericks return.
But that was as good as it got. The euphoria of the leveller was quickly demolished by Lee Duffy. He sent a powerful driving shot from 20 yards in off the post, again the ball trickling into the goal, despite the on-rushing Jason Hughes.
The game fell into a pattern for the closing stages. A compact Drogheda defence was coping with a barrage of attacks from Limerick. A Shane Tracy free-kick came to nothing while Clarke couldn’t find the target despite his fine performance. Shane Duggan did his best to generate chances too but none arrived.
That was until the most talked about moment of the night. A through ball was misjudged by the United defence, Clarke went to play the ball but was met by Schlingermann who met man and ball with great force. A penalty seemed the only outcome but Paul Tuite ignored appeals.
The Dubliner was met with boos as he walked off. Drogheda had done enough to get the win, despite a gallant effort by a struggling Limerick side. The upcoming midseason break will be welcomed by Limerick, while the Louth side will be looking to build on their small run prior to the break.
Limerick FC: Conor O’Donnell; Jason Hughes, Tony Whitehead, Robbie Williams, Shane Tracy; Paul O’Conor, Shane Duggan ©, Darragh Rainsford (, Sean Russell (Ross Mann 87), Dean Clarke; Kieran Hanlon.
Subs Not Used: Tommy Holland (gk), Aidan Price, Val Feeney, Shane Costelloe.
Drogheda United: Micheál Schlingermann, Michael Daly ©, Alan Byrne, Robert O’Reilly, Joe Gorman, Mark Hughes (Stephen Maher 68), Sean Thornton, Sean Brennan, Lee Duffy (Tiarnán Mulvenna 58), Adam Whelan, Jason Marks (Cathal Brady 78).
Subs Not Used: Dylan Connolly (gk), Carl Walshe, Fionn Reilly. Lloyd Buckley.
Booked: Byrne (74), Thornton (85)
Referee: Paul Tuite
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Shane Duggan (Limerick)