LIMERICK FC’s U-19s fell at the final hurdle in the SSE Airtricity National League – losing 2-1 to title favourites Cork City in the League final.
A calm finish from Limerick’s Yousef ‘Yoyo’ Mahdy put Tommy Barrett’s men ahead, but second half goals from Aaron Drinan and Connor Ellis sealed the Leesiders’ fourth title in five years.
Limerick were once again without the services of first team squad players Paudie O’Connor and Val Feeney who both saw red in the quarter-final win in the Showgrounds against Sligo Rovers.
Despite their absence, it was the Blues who dominated the opening half. Oisin Kelly was notably bright and the first real chance of the game came his way after receiving possession from Sean McSweeney’s lay-off. Kelly took aim but David Coffey was equal to his drive.
The hosts played some tidy football on occasion and one of their best moves of the game provided the opening goal after 23 minutes. Neat interplay on the edge of the area saw Clyde O’Connell find the run of Yoyo Mahdy with his well-weighted through ball. Mahdy made no mistake – slotting past Coffey with relative ease.
Limerick had big claims for a penalty turned down before the half when Ross Mann looked to have been taken out in the box – but referee Rob Hennessey waved play on, much to the dismay of the majority of the crowd in attendance.
Clyde O’Connell almost doubled Limerick’s lead in spectacular fashion just before the interval. He measured a lob from 45 yards almost to perfection after seeing Coffey stranded outside the City goal – but his effort just didn’t dip enough to extend the advantage and the sides went in at the break with just a goal between them.
Cork were terribly off-pace in the opening 45, but would go on to dominate the second half completely – scoring their equaliser just ten minutes after the restart. Some really intricate play for City on the edge of the Limerick box saw the ball held up and fed back to the lively Aaron Drinan who placed his effort majestically into the top corner and out of the reach of Limerick ‘keeper Tommy Holland.
Referee Rob Hennessy had those in attendance scratching their heads midway through the second half when a coming together in the box was deemed a penalty by the official. In truth, it appeared to be more of a free to Limerick, but Hennessy eventually reversed the decision having seen his assistant’s flag indicating an offside.
Tommy Holland would go on to be Limerick’s star performer – plucking crosses out of the air in heavy downpour as well as commanding his area. Holland has a handful of senior appearances under his belt and looks a sure thing to feature at League of Ireland level in the coming years.
His excellence was outlined again after a fine save from Connor Ellis just after City had levelled.
He again provided a moment of sheer class when City overloaded. Ellis was free in the box but Holland got down well to block his goalbound effort before regaining his balance and diving to his left to deny substitute Denzil Fernandes from the rebound.
There was nothing Holland could do about Cork taking the lead after 77 minutes, however.
Ellis’ power was a problem for Limerick on the night and he gave the Blues’ backline the slip before being taken down inside the box by a clumsy challenge from Killian Brouder.
He confidently picked up the ball, placed it and rolled it past Holland – sending him the wrong way before wheeling away in celebration with his teammates.
Limerick: Tommy Holland; Shane Lowth, Evan O’Connor, Killian Brouder, Liam McCartan; Declan Cusack (Ross Fitzgerald, 61), Clyde O’Connell; Oisín Kelly (Evan Cusack 68), Seán McSweeney, Ross Mann; Yoyo Mahdy (Denis Haverty 83).
Cork City: David Coffey; Kevin Taylor, Conor McCarthy, Cian Coleman, Garan Manley; Craig Donnellan, George Gill; William Cronin (Denzil Fernandes 66), Aaron Drinan (Alec Byrne 81), Chiedozie Ogbene; Connor Ellis.
Referee: Rob Hennessey