Airtricity League First Division

November 7, 2018

Monaghan United salvaged a point they scarcely deserved in the dying seconds of their Gortakeegan encounter with a Limerick FC side that had dominated the play but were made to rue not imprinting their superiority more emphatically on the scoreboard.

Centreback Philip Byrne rose in a crowded penalty area to power home a header in the third and last of the three additional minutes as United threw everyone, including goalkeeper Gabriel Sava, into the box in a last-ditch gamble to turn around their fortunes.

Limerick were left stunned as the final whistle sounded seconds later – just as they had stunned their hosts 18 seconds after a kick-off delayed for some minutes when assistant referee Paula Brady spotted a tear in one of the goal nets.

The first minute goal came when Stephen O’Flynn turned the ball into the path of Paudie Quinn whose low finish flashed through a statuesque United defence and beat Sava at his near post.

Although Alan Byrne directed a header just over the crossbar soon after, Monaghan, missing several important personnel through injury and suspension, spent the remainder of the half on the defensive as an athletic and skilful Limerick set the agenda of the game.

Quinn looked odds-on for his second until Shane Grimes’ intervention saw the ball rocket off the shins of the attacking Limerick midfielder and just outside the post. Limerick captain Pat Purcell had a header turned off the line by Don Tierney and striker Peter Hynes saw an aerial effort cannon back off the crossbar. O’Flynn also tested Sava with a fiercely hit free-kick.

Mons boss Roddy Collins surprisingly sacrificed his in-form striker Sean Brennan at half-time, bringing on Eric Foley to held United get a better grip on midfield. Foley gave United more presence in that area, but Michael Isichei was left unsupported and largely unsupplied up front as the home side struggled to create chances.

Sava was forced into a flying save to keep out Shane Tracy’s headed effort in the 58th minute, and soon after dilatoriness between Sava and Conor McMahon allowed O’Flynn a clear path to goal but he unaccountably elected to cross rather than shoot. O’Flynn had the Limerick fans on their feet in the 67th minute with a spectacular volley on the run that flashed just past the top corner.

It wasn’t until the final ten minutes that United, who had by then added Shane Fitzgerald and Andy Haran to the mix, suggested that they could rescue something from the game. Their chance seemed to have gone when Foley sent a free-kick from scoreable range ballooning over the bar, and Ryan Brennan dispatched a 20-yarder that fizzed past the post.

But then, in the last flickering of added time, a final burst of pressure forced the corner from which Philip Byrne struck to preserve the Mons’ unbeaten home record.

Monaghan United: Sava; Reilly, P Byrne, McMahon, Grimes; R Brennan, Tierney (Haran 66), A Byrne (Fitzgerald 71), Marks; Isichei, S Brennan (Foley 46)

Limerick FC: Ryan; Frost, McCarthy, Purcell, Treacy; O’Leary, Judge, Tracy; Quinn (O’Callaghan 81); O’Flynn, Hynes (O’Connor 75)

Referee: John McLoughlin

Match report from Peter Hughes