Galway United recorded a morale boosting league win against Limerick FC on Friday evening at Eamonn Deacy Park on front of the watchful eyes of President Michael D. Higgins.
Enda Curran rattled home a well-taken brace and Limerick native Gary Shanahan made sure of the points with a cool finish in the closing minutes.
Tommy Dunne’s side started purposefully, when American winger Jake Keegan almost opened the scoring inside the opening minute of the game, but his lobbed effort landed just inches wide of the post.
United continued to probe for an opener. Enda Curran found his strike-partner, Padraic Cunningham, with a cute through ball but Limerick netminder Conor O’Donnell charged from his goal to smother the danger.
Limerick’s first chance of the game came from an Ian Turner free-kick, however Sean Russell couldn’t direct his header goalward at the back post.
Marc Ludden’s long-throw caused the visitors problems at times and he unlocked the Shannonsider’s defence from the sideline in the 17th minute. Padraic Cunningham swivelled on the ball before getting a shot away that drew another save from keeper’ Conor O’Donnell.
United’s pressure was building and their endeavour was rewarded in the 23rd minute when Jason Hughes upended Jake Keegan in the box and referee Ray Mathews immediately pointed to the spot. Enda Curran stepped up and fired United in front from 12 yards, with a composed penalty.
Marc Ludden made a rare foray forward into Limerick’s box in the 37th minute and the former Mervue man got on the end of Gary Shanahan’s pin-point cross, but the fullback dragged his header wide.
Limerick goalkeeper Conor O’Donnell was having a busy afternoon for the visitors and when United sprang the offside trap and Padraic Cunningham raced through on goal, the Donegal native came to Limerick’s rescue once again, saving Cunningham’s shot.
Against the run of play, Limerick drew level 5 minutes before the interval. In a rare attack, Dean Clarke raided down the right wing before drilling a cross at the near post and United defender Kevin Garcia turned the ball into his own net.
Unperturbed by Limerick’s equaliser, the home sides dominance continued into the second period and they should have gone back in front when Curran and Cunningham linked up with some neat build-up play, with the latter pulling his shot wide.
In the 56th minute, a United goal looked certain when the ball was supplied to Padraic Cunningham in Limerick’s box but he couldn’t steer the ball home and Conor O’Donnell pounced on the loose ball as pressure from the home side began to build.
On the hour mark, Ryan Connolly got on the ball at the edge of Limerick’s box before rifling an effort at goal that took a deflection, drawing a fantastic save from O’Donnell.
Not long after, the Mayoman went on a mazy run, rampaging forward from midfield, beating two Limerick players before rounding O’Donnell, but he was pushed wide of goal and the chance came to nothing.
Connolly’s influence in the game was growing and he picked out Enda Curran at the back post with a pinpoint pass, but totally unmarked, Curran’s looping header cleared the crossbar.
Limerick almost took the lead when Ian Turner’s long range volley was pushed out for a corner by Ger Hanley. The corner kick was swung in by Turner before being cleared back to the former Cork City man and he swung another cross in, that was aimed at the back post, Ger Hanley had to tap the ball over at full-stretch.
From the resultant corner kick, Stephen Walsh had to be alert to clear Tony Whitehead’s goalbound effort off the line.
A fully merited second United goal did arrive in the 75th minute. Ryan Connolly’s out-swinging corner found its way to Enda Curran and he blasted past O’Donnell as Eamonn Deacy Park erupted with relief.
United added a third goal in the 83rd minute when Ryan Connolly again supplied the telling pass, picking out Gary Shanahan at the back stick and he applied the finishing touch, to open a two goal lead.
The visitors pegged United back with a goal 5 minutes from time, former Galway United striker, Vinny Faherty, headed Ian Turner’s corner home from close range to make sure that the last few minutes would be nerve-racking for the home side.
Ryan Connolly almost teed up Gary Shanahan for a brace late on when he squared the ball to Shanahan but he could only find the side netting and Galway United recorded a second home win of the season thanks to well-taken finishes from Curran and Shanahan.
Next up for United is an away trip to Oriel Park on Monday evening.
PHOTOS BY RAY RYAN, THE TUAM HERALD – www.tuamherald.ie
REFEREE: Ray Mathews (Mullingar)
GALWAY UNITED (4-4-2): Hanley; Horgan, Garcia, Walsh, Ludden; Shanahan, O’Leary, Connolly ©, Keegan; Curran, Cunningham (Byrne 89).
UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Gleeson (GK), Barry, O’Laoi, Sinnott, Raftery.
SCORERS: Curran 24 & 75, Shanahan 83.
BOOKED: Garcia 12.
LIMERICK FC (4-2-3-1): O’Donnell; Harding, Whitehead, Price, Williams ©; Hughes (Faherty 45), Tracy (Tracy 66); Turner, O’Conor, Russell; Clarke.
UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Holland (GK), Rainsford, Feeney, Mann, O’Connor.
SCORERS: Garcia OG 39, Faherty 85.
BOOKED: Hughes 24, Williams 72, Whitehead 74.
OFFICIAL ATTENDANCE: 1,233.