Friday 23 March 2018

Something to build on after Drogheda do demolition job

Ryan Brennan has his shirt pulled by Jason Hughes as they contest a high ball during the Premier Division clash at Hunky Dorys Park on Friday. Pic: Paul Connor
Ryan Brennan has his shirt pulled by Jason Hughes as they contest a high ball during the Premier Division clash at Hunky Dorys Park on Friday. Pic: Paul Connor

IT felt a bit like the good old days at Hunky Dorys Park on Friday evening as Drogheda United ended a three-month win-less run in the league with this comprehensive demolition of Limerick.

When these sides met at the same venue back in March the Boynesiders rode their luck to snatch a 2-2 draw in a crazy match that featured four penalties, two red cards and the dismissal of Limerick manager Stuart Taylor from the dugout.

This time it was much more straightforward for the slick- passing Drogs, so much so that you'd have to wonder why they hadn't previously won a league game on their own patch since April.

Perhaps the strain of playing twice a week through the spring and early summer months really did take its toll, and Drogheda are now benefiting from being considerably more rested going into league games.

Certainly, all the early signs were good on Friday night as the in-form Declan O'Brien played a couple of one-twos with Gavin Brennan before shooting low towards the near post, forcing Barry Ryan to finger-tip the ball round the post.

On nine minutes a misunderstanding between Drogs keeper Micheal Schlingermann and Alan McNally - probably the only defensive slip all night - led to a headed chance for Craig Curran which flew wide.

Despite some attractive build-up play by the visitors there was no penetration when they got anywhere near the Drogheda penalty area, and indeed the game was into the second minute of stoppage time at the end of the match before the Shannonsiders conjured another goal attempt.

Not so at the other end of the field, and on 12 minutes Cathal Brady latched onto a quickly taken free kick and his driven cross-shot was pushed round the post by Ryan.

From the resulting corner, also quickly taken, Gavin Brennan crossed to the near post and O'Brien deflected the ball into the side netting.

Ryan Brennan had a shot blocked and brother Gavin had a glancing header deflected wide, before Shane Grimes - who was very prominent in the first half - had a snap shot that struck Limerick keeper Ryan in the chest before being scrambled clear.

Crucially, Drogheda managed to strike before half-time, and this time it came from route one football as Schlingermann's long kick was flicked on by Daly. Limerick defender Steve Folan mis-cued his attempted headed clearance and O'Brien was onto the loose ball in a flash, firing past a stranded Ryan from 12 yards.

From Drogheda's next attack they very nearly scored again. This time O'Brien was put clear on the right and his venomous cross-shot from an acute angle beat Ryan before being cleared off the line by Shane Costelloe under pressure from Gavin Brennan.

At the half-time whistle Limerick boss Taylor saw fit to walk a considerable distance in the opposite direction to the dressing-rooms in an attempt to confront referee Tomas Connolly, believing his team had been on the wrong end of some dubious decisions.

However, the statistics at that stage - nine shots from the home side, one from Limerick, were entirely the result of the respective teams' performances, and the former Drogheda midfielder would surely have been wiser spending that time addressing his players.

The momentary failure of one floodlight pylon during half-time perhaps gave Limerick a glimmer of hope and Drogheda some anxiety, but thankfully the electrics were quickly restored.

With a midfield containing Joe Gamble and Stephen Bradley, Limerick had the quality to cause Drogheda problems, but neither could produce a killer pass and Mick Cooke's team always looked the more likely to add to their tally.

A clever back flick by Gavin Brennan led to the excellent Grimes driving a cross menacingly along the six-yard line, and a McNally header just cleared Ryan's crossbar, before Drogheda deservedly gave themselves more of a cushion on the hour mark.

Daly's long pass from the back dissected Limerick's two centre-backs and Gavin Brennan got in behind them and controlled the ball with one touch before driving the ball low past an exposed Ryan.

Coming up to the 70-minute mark Paul O'Conor, O'Brien and David Cassidy all went close from distance and it was no surprise when Drogheda added to their tally on 76.

Ryan Brennan's attempted shot from just outside the box struck Gamble on the arm, deliberately in Mr Connolly's view which seemed very harsh.

O'Brien, as the usual penalty taker, wanted to take the spot kick, but Ryan Brennan had other ideas and he placed the ball down before expertly and cheekily chipping it down the middle for 3-0.

That was the icing on the cake for the small but very contented contingent of home supporters.

A bad night for Limerick was summed up two minutes into stoppage time when their substitute Axel Bossekota dispossessed Derek Prendergast and had a clear shot on goal, only to drag a hopeless effort well wide of Schlingermann's right-hand post.

Drogheda Independent