A wonder strike from Shaun Kelly helped Limerick FC to a 1-0 win over Finn Harps in the first leg of the SSE Airtricity League promotion/relegation playoff game in the Markets Field on Monday night.
A resolute Harps side were happy to sit in shape and limit Limerick to half chances. The Donegal outfit only conceded 23 times in their 28 First Division games and that much was evident.
Playing with three centre halves, Harps packed five into midfield, with Micky Funston playing as the link between them and striker Nathan Boyle.
The opening half an hour was scrappy. Limerick couldn’t find a final ball – limited to half chances and long range efforts.
That was to change after 34 minutes. Most of Limerick’s joy has been coming down the left with Dean Clarke, but it was from the right flank that the Blues opened the scoring.
Shaun Kelly checked his run behind Ian Turner. Kelly received the ball and produced a top class strike from 25 yards to beat Harps keeper Ciaran Gallagher.
But there was almost a disaster for the home side before the half. An awkward ball bounced in behind for Kelly and Freddie Hall to deal with. Kelly opted to head to Hall, but overshot him – allowing Nathan Boyle to nip in behind. The on-loan striker found the angle too tight and it came to nothing.
Limerick got off the hook three times in a row in the second half. First, Funston went down under a heavy challenge but referee Rogers said no. Then, Shaun Kelly went in with two feet – but Rogers booked him. Finally, BJ Banda snuck in around the back before rounding Hall – only to slice wide.
There was to be no second goal. The sides meet again in the second leg in Ballybofey on Friday night.
LIMERICK FC: Freddy Hall; Shaun Kelly, Patrick Kanyuka, Robbie Williams, Shane Tracy; Shane Duggan; Dean Clarke, Paul O’Conor, Sean Russell, Ian Turner; Vinny Faherty. Subs: Lee J Lynch for Clarke (69 mins)
Finn Harps: Ciarán Gallagher; Josh Mailey, Keith Cowan, Packie Mailey, Matt Crossan; Damien McNulty, Mickey Funston, Tony McNamee, Gareth Harkin, Ciaran Coll; Nathan Boyle. Subs: BJ Banda for Boyle (52 mins), Raymond Foy for Crossan (62 mins), Wilfried Tagbo for Funston (82 mins)