David McMillan spoils the welcome party to ease Lilies past 10-man Limerick
LIMERICK 0 DUNDALK 3
David McMillan put a dampener on Neil McDonald’s first game in charge of Limerick, bagging a first-half brace as Dundalk cruised to victory at the Markets Field.
The new Lims boss will consider himself somewhat unlucky that his maiden game came against the reigning league champions and even more so that Stephen Kenny’s side displayed more signs that they could be clicking into top gear.
Limerick’s cause wasn’t helped by the loss of goalkeeper Brendan Clarke in the 18th minute, the experienced netminder giving referee Paul McLaughlin no option but to produce a red card after handling a Michael Duffy shot a long way outside his area.
The Lilywhites arrived in Munster looking to improve on a poor away record that saw them pick up just six points from their previous 21 on the road, and they were full value for a win that keeps them 13 points behind leaders Cork City.
The talk beforehand was that McDonald would have a watching brief from the dugout while interim boss Willie Boland would direct operations but the former Carlisle United boss was prominent on the touchline throughout.
The Limerick fans were singing the 51-year-old’s name before a ball had been kicked and the hosts, showing three changes to the side that snatched an injury-time draw against Derry City six nights earlier, made a decent start by pressing in advanced areas of the pitch.
Dundalk, who were able to field an unchanged line-up for just the second time this season, eventually found their groove.
On 16 minutes Patrick McEleney cut in from the left only to see his curling attempt easily dealt with by Clarke.
The keeper received his marching orders two minutes later after raising a hand to block Duffy’s effort outside his area and the visitors took complete control of the half after that, with McEleney and Duffy revelling in the open spaces.
Lee J Lynch was sacrificed by McDonald to get Freddy Hall onto the pitch and the replacement keeper made a fine stop to keep out McEleney’s free-kick in the 28th minute.
Limerick had no answer to the Dundalk No 10 just a minute later, however, McEleney bewitching Robbie Williams and the youthful Barry Cotter with a deft piece of footwork on the left.
Referee McLaughlin was quick to point to the spot when Williams upended the Derryman and McMillan stepped up to casually send Hall the wrong way from 12 yards.
McDonald’s half-time team talk was made even more difficult as Dundalk increased their advantage eight minutes later with a well-worked move.
The eye-catching Duffy found himself in behind the Blues backline and his cross to the near post was buried in emphatic fashion by the head of McMillan, the striker’s eighth goal in just eight starts this season.
Dundalk continued in the same vein after the break with McMillan’s looping header from Dane Massey’s delivery kissing the top of the top of the crossbar in the 51st minute.
Duffy continued to puncture holes in the Limerick back four and Hall got down low to his right to deny him a deserved goal after a forceful run from Jamie McGrath had the Limerick defence back-pedalling.
Kenny’s side continued to press for a third and Chris Shields was thwarted twice by Hall while McMillan was also denied the match ball by the Limerick goalkeeper before substitute Sean Gannon rounded off a stylish win with a cool finish from Duffy’s pass.
LIMERICK – B Clarke; Cotter (Turner 79), O’Conor, Williams, Robson; Hery, Duggan, Lynch (Hall 20); Ogbene, Mulhall (Tosi 68), D Clarke.
DUNDALK – Rogers; Vemmelund (Gannon 68), Barrett, Hoare, Massey; Shields, Benson (O’Donnell 60); Duffy, McEleney, McGrath; McMillan (Kilduff 85).
REF – P McLaughlin (Monaghan)