Rovers seize on Limerick mistakes
Limerick 0 Shamrock Rovers 2
Limerick's valiant attempt at a great escape has been characterised by a tendency to live on the edge that has brought curious crowds flocking to Markets Field.
That dangerous streak cost them last night as needless defensive errors allowed a grateful Shamrock Rovers to capitalise and take all three points home from Markets Field to keep their prospects of a second-placed finish alive.
Limerick will support them in that mission as their survival hopes now rest on Rovers' taking points from Drogheda's visit to Tallaght next Friday.
In that scenario, a win for the Shannonsiders away to a Sligo side that is safe from the drop will be enough to book them a spot in the drama of the play-off - an outcome that would represent a massive achievement given where they're come from.
The problem for Martin Russell's charges is that they've lost the momentum which brought them to the brink of a remarkable exit from the mire.
Back-to-back losses in their new abode have checked the country's form side with the goalscoring touch deserting them a vital juncture.
What has lingered is a troubling habit of presenting opponents with gilt-edged openings.
The locals, backed by a passionate crowd, started reasonably well here and that's why Russell was so frustrated by the goal they conceded just short of the quarter hour mark.
Centre-half Robbie Williams collected the ball and, as Rovers pressed on, he attempted to clear his lines with a daft cross-field pass that was intercepted by Rovers playmaker Brandon Miele who engineered a one-two with Ryan Brennan and swept the ball past Freddy Hall with the confidence that has defined his progression.
Limerick responded from the setback to press forward in search of a leveller and, with right winger Ian Turner their main outlet, they forced a number of corner kicks.
Alas, they were unable to find a delivery capable of picking the Rovers lock and duly stiffened the task by pressing the self-destruct button.
Bermudan 'keeper Hall likes to play the ball out from the back, an approach that frightens the Limerick patrons, and it proved costly when Pat Cregg read an attempted pass and drew a foul from Shane Duggan at the edge of the box.
Again, the flippancy was efficiently punished. Stephen McPhail served a reminder of his pedigree by stepping up to dispatch the subsequent free into the top corner with his cultured left peg.
To their credit, Russell's side bounced back from the ropes to engineer a fine passing move which looked to have halved the deficit before the interval - but the linesman raised his flag as Vinny Faherty was obstructing Barry Murphy's view when Turner swept the ball home.
Russell sent in Shane Tracy at the break but, while the natives did have reasonable spells on the ball, they found it hard to hurt a Rovers side that threw away a two-goal lead in Bray last weekend and weren't going to make the same mistake twice.
Pat Fenlon's troops were disciplined in general play, getting enough bodies behind the ball to cope with blue-shirted attempts to play through them. The Dubliners were comfortable in the end.
Limerick will feel differently in the build-up to a nervous climax.
Limerick - Hall, Kelly, Kanyuka, Williams, Russell (Rainsford 83); O'Conor, Duggan; Turner, Lynch (Tracy 45), Clarke; Faherty (Guedje 87)
Shamrock Rovers - Murphy, Madden, Webster, Kenna, O'Connor; McPhail (McCabe 79), Cregg; G Brennan, R Brennan (Drennan 79), Miele; North (Duff 87).
Ref - G Kelly (Cork)