Longford Town fell to their third defeat in a row as newly crowned First Division Champions Limerick celebrated their title and promotion success with a deserved win over an understrength home side at Flancare Park on Saturday night last.
The play-offs are firmly in Longford’s mind now and manager Tony Cousins decided to rest a few players for this game while he also had a number of regulars missing through suspension and injury.
Cousins named a number of U-19 players on the bench with Alex Kenny making his debut in the second half, coming on for Keith Gillespie. Right-back Noel Haverty made a welcome return from injury after being out for a number of months after dislocating his elbow.
Longford had to play the majority of the second half with 10 men after Jamie Duffy was sent-off for stupidly getting a second yellow card. With two tough play-off games against Waterford United coming up Longford really need a good performance and result in their final game away to Finn Harps on Saturday night next to bring some sort of momentum into those games.
Limerick dominated this game from start to finish but it wasn’t until the 79th minute that they finally broke the deadlock. Shane Tracy converting a penalty after Robert Bayly had taken down Garbhan Coughlan and then substitute Sean Brosnan added a second goal in injury-time.
Playing with a real confidence and swagger Limerick took the game to Longford right from the start and inside the opening 10 minutes had created four chances to open the scoring. The first came in the 5th minute when Corie Treacy’s ball into the box met the head of Denis Behan but his diving effort went just wide.
One minute later Cian Collins had a chance but his low drive failed to find the target. Behan was unlucky in the 7th minute when he directed his effort wide. Another Limerick chance went a begging in the 8th minute when Derek O’Brien’s low drive seemed to have been deflected out for a corner by Longford keeper Paul Hunt but a goal-kick was given.
Joe Gamble was the provider in the 16th minute but this time it was O’Brien who just couldn’t finish the move with a goal. After being completely outplayed the Town began to get a hold of the ball but their end product was poor.
In the space of one minute Gamble had two chances. On the half hour mark his shot was well-blocked down by Darragh Reynor and then seconds later his header just went wide.
Limerick defender Pat Purcell was lucky to stay on the pitch in the 32nd minute after hauling down Alan Kirby who was through on goal. Purcell received just a yellow card when he really should have been sent-off. From the free-kick that was awarded the ball eventually fell to Mark Salmon but his fantastic shot from about 25 yards out was well saved by Barry Ryan.
Completely against the run of play Longford had another great chance to take the lead four minutes from the break. Kirby’s corner from the left met the head of Craig Walsh but his effort was cleared off the line by Dave O’Leary.
Limerick started the second half like they had the first and took the game to Longford. In the 51st minute Behan forced Longford netminder Paul Hunt into making an excellent save to keep his goal intact. From the corner Purcell’s header just went wide of the target. Hunt played very well on his return to the starting 11 and will push for the number 1 jersey for the next few games.
Four minutes later the Town were reduced to 10 men when Jamie Duffy was shown a second yellow card for a foul on O’Leary. Referee Sean Grant was going to ignore the challenge but was put under pressure by Limerick players who let him know Duffy was already booked.
Shortly after that Behan’s snapshot flew into Hunt’s hands as Limerick continued to press and then the hard-working Behan was unlucky in the 69th minute with a well struck long range shot.
Limerick’s pressure finally paid off in the 79th minute when Robert Bayly took down Coughlan in the box and Tracy made no mistake from the penalty. A minute into additional time the visitors scored a second goal when Brosnan finished Shaun Kelly’s cross to the net to spark off wild celebrations from the large travelling support as the small number of Town supporters went home disappointed again.
LONGFORD TOWN: Paul Hunt; Noel Haverty, Chris Deans, Gary Cronin, Darragh Reynor; Mark Salmon, Keith Gillespie, Alan Kirby, Thomas Crawley; Jamie Duffy, Craig Walsh.
Subs:- Robert Bayly for Haverty (62 mins); Tony Griffiths for Crawley (64 mins); Alex Kenny for Gillespie (76 mins).
LIMERICK: Barry Ryan; Shaun Kelly, Corie Treacy, Pat Purcell, Joe Gamble; Stephen Bradley, Shane Tracy, Dave O’Leary, Derek O’Brien; Cian Collins, Denis Behan.
Subs:- Garbhan Coughlan for O’Brien (half-time); Steve McGann for Gamble (61 mins); Sean Brosnan for Collins (66 mins).
Referee: Sean Grant (Wexford).