THEY came, they saw and they were conquered; albeit very harshly.
Bray Wanderers began the final series of games with a scarcely deserved four-goal losing margin – compounded by the 60th minute sending off of Dave Scully.
Scully had been booked late in the first half and then on the hour mark, he went to ground in the penalty area under a challenge from Samuel Oji. But instead of a penalty, he was awarded a second yellow card and it paved the way for the hosts to add to their 1-0 lead – something they did in ruthless fashion.
Scully was foraging alone up front in place of the injured Jake Kelly, one of three changes for the visitors. Adam Mitchell returned at Shane O'Connor's expense, while Stephen McGuinness gained the upper hand in his battle with Shane Redmond and returned between the sticks.
McGuinness' opposite number was the first custodian to be called into action with the match only two minutes old. Patrick Nzuzi missed a cross from the right which Adam Hanlon retrieved. He controlled and delivered a cross that Dean Zambra ghosted onto but he guided a weak header straight into the hands of Barry Ryan from a mere six yards out.
Corners have proved to be a useful source of goals for Wanderers this season and they almost produced another on 11 minutes. Eric McGill zipped the ball into Cassidy who steered it goalwards but Rory Gaffney managed to head over his own crossbar.
Wanderers had two more corners in relatively quick succession. On both occasions, Cassidy searched for the head of Mitchell but despite wriggling free, the defender could not apply the necessary touch.
McGill earned the away side a free kick after he was barged over by a Limerick defender. Adam Hanlon and McGill stood over the set-piece but it was McGill who struck it. After taking a wicked deflection off the wall, it spun wildly towards goal before agonisingly kissing the foot of the post. Ryan and Mitchell both lunged for the rebound, with the former beating the latter to it by a fraction of a second.
The Limerick forays into Bray's half were few and far between, but one such attack was ended when Scully tugged back Kieran Djilali as he threatened to race by him. For his misdemeanour, Scully earned a yellow card.
And perhaps if Ismahil Akinade had copied Scully's antics three minutes later, Gaffney would not have opened the scoring in the 38 th minute.
Robbie Williams left Akinade for dead with a lighting quick feint and burst past him. He then lifted his head and whipped in a dangerous cross that Gaffney – who had snuck between defenders – was able to plant into McGuinness' bottom corner.
Down but not out, Bray showed good intent at the beginning of the second period. After a period of control, Joe Gorman sent in a deep cross that Cassidy volleyed back across goal at the far post. Akinade was the intended target but a Limerick leg was first to greet it and clear it behind for a corner.
And it was during the aftermath of that flag kick that Wanderers were reduced to ten. Scully was found inside the area but instead of crossing or shooting, he decided to take on Samuel Oji. They tangled and Scully flopped to the ground. Instead of the penalty he wanted, he received a second yellow for simulation and suddenly Wanderers seemed destined for their seventh loss in their last eight outings.
Mathews had already gambled by then, throwing on Graham Kelly and Philly Hughes within five and seven minutes of the interval respectively.
And it was while gambling – with bodies commited forward – that Limerick struck again. Gaffney had Niall Cooney for company but still managed to lay the ball inside to the on-rushing Lee-J Lynch. He instantly skipped past Zambra before composing himself and slotting home.
Zambra pulled a strike back for Bray two minutes later. Ryan could only parry Graham Kelly's free kick and Zambra was first on the scene and managed to tuck his left-foot effort away.
It offered inspiration for Wanderers but not a second goal. Instead, Limerick sealed the win with eight minutes to play. McGuinness' kick-out was headed straight back up the field by Jason Hughes. Gaffney and Mitchell competed for it and the striker roasted Mitchell before applying a deadly finish.
The 715 people in attendance were treated to one more goal as Gaffney completed his hat-trick. Ian Turner broke down the Bray left and his cross across the face of the Wanderers goal left Gaffney with a simple tap-in to secure the match ball.
Top Form: Dean Zambra (Bray Wanderers): If only there were a few more like him.