by Shane Callaghan
Drogheda United produced a goal-laden second-half display to beat Limerick 3-0 at Thomond Park in the SSE Airtricity League tonight.
The Boynesiders brushed off what was an insipid first half from their perspective as goals from Michael Daly, Gavan Holohan and Cathal Brady helped manager Damian Richardson to his fourth win in his six-game tenure thus far.
Richardson made two changes to his team following Sunday’s 4-0 win over Ballynanty Rovers in the FAI Ford Cup.
Brady replaced the suspended Gavin Brennan – serving the first of a four-game ban – while Declan O’Brien dropped to the bench for Garreth Brady, who made his second start since joining the club earlier this month.
Thomond Park had proved a happy hunting ground for Drogheda in recent years, with the visitors managing 1-0 victories in each of their last two trips to the Blues.
However, Limerick started the brighter and could have made inroads toward ending that hoodoo on 19 minutes as Rory Gaffney’s audacious lob dropped just wide of the mark.
Martin Russell’s side continued to press and nearly found the opener minutes later, with Shane Duggan’s angled shot beating goalkeeper Micheál Schlingermann but his effort nestled in the side-netting.
United brushed off both scares and came within the width of the woodwork from moving ahead on 33 minutes, as Cathal Brady latched on to Gary O’Neill’s lofted pass but the midfielder saw his shot rifle against the post.
Limerick could, and perhaps should, have hit their Louth counterparts with a sucker punch just before the break when Lee Lynch fired straight at Schlingermann after Jack Doherty’s through ball.
Richardson’s half-time team-talk looked to be having an immediate effect on the Boynesiders, who emerged reinvigorated from the interval.
Within minutes of the restart both Holohan and Cathal Brady took aim – the latter forcing Barry Ryan into tipping his shot wide – before Alan McNally headed over from a Garreth Brady corner.
Limerick failed to stem the tide of early pressure and Drogheda continued in the same vein, with Daly heading O’Neill’s cross wide, before Peter McGlynn’s drive across the goal-face went begging.
Richardson’s troops soon wielded tangible reward for their goalmouth dominance, however, as Daly’s shot looped over a stranded Ryan via a deflection just after the hour mark.
United weathered a light storm of Blues pressure before doubling their advantage six minutes after opening the scoring.
Holohan, who bagged a brace in the win over Limerick-based Ballynanty last weekend, returned to the mid-west to add a second by thrashing home from close range following Cathal Brady’s pass.
Adam Wixted, signed from Derby County earlier today, replaced Garreth Brady on 73 minutes as the 19-year-old partnered O’Neill in attack in a bid to increase Drogheda’s advantage.
And the third came on 84 minutes as Brady capped his own impressive performance with a tidy finish to kill off any hopes of a comeback.
by Robert O'Reilly
Drogheda United face their second trip South in the space of five days as they travel to face Limerick at Thomond Park, kickoff 7.45pm.
The Drogs advanced to the final eight of the FAI Cup for the third successive season as they defeated Ballynanty Rovers 4-0, courtesy of a first half double from Gavan Holohan and a second half brace from Gary O’Neill.
United were without their manager for the Cup clash as Damien Richardson was in London due to a prior family engagement and the Dubliner was relieved that his side overcame a potential Cup upset.
“When we finished training on Saturday, I asked the players to seize the opportunity on Sunday with both hands and that’s exactly what they did,” Richardson said on Thursday. “It’s never easy travelling to a lower league side but we were very professional from what I’ve heard from Darius and that is highly encouraging. Anything can happen in a Cup game but once the players approach it in the right manner that is all I can ask for.”
Standing in the way of last year’s Cup finalists are Derry City, with Richardson delighted to have been handed a home draw at this stage of the tournament.
“I am satisfied with the quarter-final draw as at this stage of the competition all you can ask for is a home fixture. Derry are an excellent side and we defeated them in a narrow league encounter a fortnight ago which should stand us in good stead. Their season, much like ours, will depend on that one game so I expect it to be a spellbinding fixture that will capture the imagination of both sets of supporters.”
Drogheda will travel to Limerick in high spirits having picked up four wins from their last six matches and were victorious when the sides met at Thomond Park back in April as Declan O’Brien’s winner maintained United’s excellent start to the season and Richardson is eagerly anticipating the test that Limerick will provide.
“I’m very excited to be managing against Limerick for the first time in many years as they were relegated during my time at Cork City and Thomond Park is a wonderful venue for football. It’s pleasing to see Martin Russell in charge as he is a real football man and I’m certain that he will be successful there but we are confident that we can cause them problems tomorrow night.”
As for the hosts, manager Martin Russell will be looking for a positive response from his players following their 4-0 defeat at home to Derry City on Monday. Results have been mixed since Russell’s appointment as the Blues have recorded three wins and three defeats from his six games in charge.
Limerick have several injury worries ahead of Drogheda’s visit as Robbie Williams, Stephen Folan, Samuel Oji and Jason Hughes are all doubtful while Mick Leahy has been ruled out.
Despite United’s midseason collapse, three points against Limerick will see the Boynesiders rise above their opponents into seventh place in the table but they will be without the suspended Gavin Brennan who will begin a four-match ban following his third red card of the campaign. Stephen Maher remains a week to ten days away from resuming full training while Mick Daly is a doubt and will be assessed at training on Thursday night.
Kieran Djilali (Ross Mann 69’)
Prince Agyemang (Shane Tracy 71’)
Garreth Brady (Adam Wixsted 73’)
Gary O’Neill (Declan O’Brien 83’)
Mick Daly 61’
Gavan Holohan 67’
Cathal Brady 84’
Shane O’Connor (yellow) 49’