Limerick’s first draw of the season comes with some deep dissatisfaction.
An utterly wasteful performance from the home town played out before my eyes in Jackman Park last Friday, as Limerick struggled to make chances despite lots of possession in the first half, and then proceeded to shoot wide or shoot the post for the second. Over and over and over again Limerick players got in space or had the goal in sights, and time and again they fluffed their lines.
Foley was mostly anonymous, connecting way too loosely with a close range effort in the first half. Gaffney indulged his glory complex a bit too much, aiming for the spectacular and not passing the ball when it was the better option. Behan was good enough when he came on, but lacked any good chances to take. With the forward line so ineffective, goals were always going to be hard to come by.
The midfield, crucially lacking the presence of O’Leary, still did enough to exert pressure and forward momentum, Gamble especially, but struggled up the right wing, over reaching many passes. The defence seemed solid enough, but that might only have been due to the incredibly impotent Longford set up. The former league leaders were bafflingly poor in the attacking department, simply playing long overhead passes all game, that all trickled harmlessly into the hands of Dave Ryan in the Limerick goal, who did not have a save to make.
That only makes the result all the more frustrating, though not as frustrating as the appalling refereeing performance of Keith Callanan, who was inconsistent, card happy when it wasn’t required, and committed the cardinal sin of any official in my eyes – getting in the way of the ball during a counter-attack and causing it to break down. Man, if I was in charge of football and that kind of thing happened? Dismissed. Immediately. It’s just plain stupid. And he’s overweight.
It’s not a bad result really, and breaks Limerick’s awful home record in “big” games this season. The Super Blues remain three points clear, with one more game in this round remaining, before the run-in starts in earnest. That’s away to Wexford Youths on Friday. Winnable certainly, but Limerick have to improve.
I suppose Waterford were the big winners of the weekend’s First Division action, their 2-0 victory over Mervue helping them close the gap on both Longford and Limerick. Things are so delicately poised at the top of the league, that one bad set of results could radically alter the picture.
Two other games for Limerick in the last few days of course. A 4-0 loss to Manchester City in a high-profile friendly has been, regrettably, overshadowed by the actions of one attendee, throwing a banana at one of the English champions black players. There goes every last shred of good press the city was getting in an international context.
The other was the League Cup semi-final, where an exhausted outfit, some of whom were starting their third game in four days, were demolished 4-1 by Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght. It has been a good run in Ireland’s secondary cup competition, a second semi-final spot in a row, but we may be left wondering just what might have been if the squad had not been put through such a stressful schedule.
What else in the League of Ireland? Well, while they retain second spot (for the moment), Drogheda have come crashing back to Earth after a 4-1 loss to league leaders Sligo (though Drogs did go on to beat them two days later in the other League Cup semi). An utterly comprehensive showing from Ian Baraclough’s charges that will do much to engender confidence as we head into the final third of the Premier Division season.
It’s Rovers vs Rovers next of course. Shams win against UCD puts them back into fourth and suddenly back into title contention. A win against Sligo will reduce that gap to just four, though the messed up schedule means Sligo have a game in hand, while St Pats, resting this weekend, have two, which could yet see them into second. A lot of top table clashes to come in the next few weeks.