Declan O’Brien rescued a point for Drogheda United that they scarcely deserved as nine-man Limerick earned parity in an incident-packed match at Hunky Dorys Park which featured four penalty kicks and two red cards.
Referee Graham Kelly and his assistants were prominent throughout the 90 minutes and the official also sent Limerick manager Stuart Taylor from the dugout for dissent.
First blood went to Drogheda when Declan O’Brien scored from the spot, but right on half-time Aaron Brown levelled with a header, only for the scorer to be dismissed for arguing about a second penalty award which O’Brien missed.
And the 10-men then took the lead with a Shane Tracy penalty, before having Axel Bossekota sent off following an off-the-ball incident.
O’Brien then had the final say with four minutes left when he scored his second penalty of the night, having missed one earlier, to make it a 2-2 draw.
Limerick looked the livelier of the two teams in the early stages, but it was Drogheda who broke the deadlock inside 10 minutes.
Ryan Brennan took advantage of a slip from Steve Folan to back-heel into the path of David Cassidy and his shot struck the hand of Joe Gamble.
Referee Graham Kelly pointed to the penalty spot, and Declan O’Brien drilled the kick firmly down the middle as keeper Barry Ryan dived to his left.
Alex Bossekota replied with a snap shot for Limerick which was comfortably dealt with by Gabriel Sava, but the Boynesiders then took a firm grip of the game.
Gavin Brennan forced a fine save from Ryan after being teed up by Paul O’Conor who himself tried his luck from long range, but the play then became scrappy and the Boynesiders lost their way.
Right on half-time, Limerick took advantage when Shane Tracy seized on a half-clearance and delivered a superb cross into the six-yard area for Aaron Brown and he nodded past a helpless Sava.
There was time for one last attack in the first half and Limerick almost snatched a shock lead, only for Bossekota’s shot to take a deflection and Sava was able to grab the ball.
The drama continued on the restart, with a second Drogheda penalty after O’Brien tumbled under a challenge from Robbie Williams.
Limerick centre-half Brown received a straight red card for disputing the decision, and manager Taylor was sent from the dugout, but O’Brien’s firm spot kick was saved this time by Ryan.
Worse was to follow for the Drogs on 57 minutes when Danny Galbraith ghosted into the box for the visitors and was checked by Michael Daly – leading to another penalty.
Tracy’s spot kick nestled in the bottom corner to give Limerick the lead.
Drogheda couldn’t make use of the extra man, but their cause was further boosted when referee Kelly brandished another red card – this one to Bossekota following an off-the-ball clash with Cassidy in the 76th minute.
Inevitably, Limerick struggled to contain their hosts in the closing stages and when Gamble tripped Ryan Brennan in full flight with four minutes left, referee Kelly awarded yet another penalty and O’Brien found the bottom corner to rescue a point for the home side.
DROGHEDA UNITED: Gabriel Sava; Brian Gannon, Alan Byrne, Shane Grimes, Philip Hand; Michael Daly (Peter Hynes 64), Ryan Brennan, David Cassidy (Graham Rusk 88), Paul O’Conor (Eric Foley 64), Gavin Brennan; Declan O’Brien.
LIMERICK: Barry Ryan; Patrick Nzuzi, Aaron Brown, Steve Folan, Robbie Williams; Shane Tracy, Joe Gamble, Dave O’Leary, Danny Galbraith (Steve McGann 79); Craig Curran, Alex Bossekota.
Referee: Graham Kelly (Cork).