Gaffney clincher as Limerick see off depleted Hoops
Limerick 2 Shamrock Rovers 0
Having scrambled around the First Division for 19 years, Limerick FC's long-suffering loyal band of supporters were kept sane by the prospect of these kind of victories.
A secure mid-table finish was the objective at the start of the campaign and Stuart Taylor's side will realise that ambition, with this fine win at Thomond Park helping them immensely.
Shamrock Rovers were poor, supplying only tiny cameos of their ability during a match that was all about Limerick's attitude and application.
With more than one eye clearly on their FAI Cup semi-final date with Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds, Hoops manager Trevor Croly made nine changes to the team that beat Drogheda United in the final of the EA Sports Cup at Tallaght last Saturday.
It was no surprise, then, that the visiting side took an age to settle and by the time that happened, Limerick had taken the lead courtesy of a Jason Hughes goal.
That strike arrived in the 11th minute, but even by then enthusiastic Limerick had shown that they were keen to examine the visitors' defence by being dynamic and direct.
Within a minute of kick-off, David O'Leary and Craig Curran both had chances for the Blues, who were causing Rovers plenty of bother.
When Hughes eventually pounced, though, it was a goal that owed as much to shoddy defending as it did to crisp finishing.
Somehow, Rory Gaffney's mammoth throw-in was allowed to bounce in the visitors' area and Hughes, sharp to react, drilled Limerick ahead.
There were brief glimpses of Rovers' attacking potential and a 35th-minute Sean O'Connor free-kick forced a reflex save from Limerick custodian Barry Ryan as Taylor's charges departed at the break protecting a slender advantage.
Limerick assistant manager Malky Thomson was ordered from the dugout in the 65th minute, but between the chalk lines, Rovers remained frustrated.
Gaffney, a bustling presence, demonstrated his subtlety too with a delightful goal seconds later and from then to the finish, the Hoops were in damage-limitation mode.
LIMERICK - Ryan; Nzuzi, Oji, Folan, Williams; O'Leary, Bradley, Hughes (Rainsford 90); Tiofack (Bossekota 53), Curran, Gaffney (Murphy 87).
SHAMROCK ROVERS – Murphy; McCormack, Elebert, McGuinness, Ledwith; Sheppard (Dennehy 70), Chambers, Rice, O'Connor; Quigley (McCabe 70); Zayed (Stewart 60).
REF – G Kelly (Cork).