Limerick FC 1-0 Finn Harps

Limerick FC’S version of the Great Escape remains on track following their narrow victory over Finn Harps in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division promotion/relegation play-off final first leg.

A belter from Shaun Kelly, who ironically hails from Killybegs in Co Donegal, proved the only goal. It came courtesy of the right-back’s fizzing shot from the angle of the penalty area on 34 minutes.

Martin Russell’s side still have work to do in the second leg on Friday in Ballybofey, but they set their stall out early tonight at Markets Field. Dean Clarke, in particular, was a menace to the visiting defence time and again and he almost got in at the back post to edge the hosts in front in the eighth minute.

However, following Kelly’s cross, Harps defender Damien McNulty managed to do just enough to disrupt Clarke and the ball clipped the crossbar.

Then, just three minutes later, Shane Tracy half-volleyed from 20 yards as Harps struggled to clear a corner, but Ciaran Gallagher saved.

The best chance that the visitors created in the first half came when Tracy headed into his own side-netting after Gareth Harkin’s corner in first-half injury time.

Paul O'Conor of Limerick with Matt Crossan and Damien McNulty of Finn Harps

The Shannonsiders failed to win in their first 21 outings in the league this season but managed to scramble their way clear of automatic relegation with last Friday’s 3-2 win at Sligo Rovers.

Limerick continued to push from the front foot but Harps, who conceded only 25 goals in 32 matches this term, held firm.

Vinny Faherty almost added a second for Limerick 15 minutes from time when he got an untidy header on a centre from Ian Turner, only to see the ball clip the outside of the post.

Harps’ best chance came on 77 minutes when 17-year-old substitute BJ Banda rounded Limerick goalkeeper Freddy Hall as he raced for goal. Banda’s shot, though, from 25 yards, on the run and at an angle missed the target.

Limerick FC: F Hall; S Kelly, P Kanyuka, R Williams, S Tracy; S Duggan; D Clarke (LJ Lynch 69), P O’Conor, S Russell, I Turner; V Faherty.

Finn Harps: C Gallagher; D McNulty, P Mailey,  K Cowan; J Mailey, M Crossan (R Foy 62), G Harkin, T McNamee, C Coll; M Funston (W Tagbo 82); N Boyle (BJ Banda 53).

Referee: R Rogers