Shamrock Rovers recorded their third successive league win when accounting for ten-man Limerick by 1-0 in their Airtricity league Premier division encounter at Tallaght Stadium tonight.
The Hoops were dominant throughout and took a deserved lead when Karl Sheppard flicked home from close range following a James Chambers corner-kick on the half-hour.
Although not at their best after the break, the hosts eased to victory with a poor evening for the visitors compounded by the late sending-off of Jeffrey Judge in injury time.
The hosts entered the contest buoyed by their impressive 2-1 victory over Cork City last Sunday afternoon, and that confidence was reflected in a lively opening by the Hoops.
In the fourth minute, some intricate approach play released Billy Dennehy to the end-line and although his cross was partially cleared, James Chambers collected to drive a 20-yard shot into Barry Ryan’s midriff.
With Stephen Rice characteristically busy in the home midfield, Rovers continued on the front foot and an ambitious Conor Powell attempt in the 10th minute had Ryan back-pedalling to palm away to safety.
A simpler save arrived from Ryan two minutes later, this time from a Dennehy free-kick before Limerick finally showed some attacking intent with an inviting centre from Danny Galbraith that narrowly eluded the in-rushing Rory Gaffney.
Despite their territorial inferiority, the visitors carved open the home defence in the 18th minute with a surging run from Patrick Nzuzi finding Galbraith in front of goal but Richard Brush advanced smartly to block his goal-bound attempt.
Within two minutes, another surge from Dennehy saw Karl Sheppard gain possession via Ronan Finn but Stephen Foran reacted smartly when bravely deflecting the ball to safety.
The deadlock appeared to have been broken in the 25th minute when Chambers seized on Ryan’s parry of a Finn shot but the celebrations were cut short with Chambers adjudged to be in an offside position.
It appeared that luck may be against the hosts when the inspirational Rice timed his run to perfection to meet a pinpoint cross by Sheppard in the 29th minute, but his four-yard shot rose agonisingly above Ryan’s crossbar.
However, Rovers’ supremacy was eventually rewarded a minute later when an in-swinging corner-kick by Chambers was neatly flicked home by the Sheppard at the near post.
The second-half resumed with Rovers lacking their fluidity of the opening-half and Limerick could well have levelled in the 53rd minute as Rory Gaffney outfoxed Derek Foran but his ensuing low shot was easily smothered by Brush.
The teeming rain ensured an error-strewn half in which both sides struggled for cohesion but substitute Ciaran Kilduff could well have doubled his side’s lead in the 68th minute but his scuffed shot from a Finn centre rebounded to safety off Robbie Williams.
That elusive second-goal almost arrived shortly after as a well-worked free-kick routine involving Finn and Rice saw the latter crash a deflected shot narrowly wide of Ryan’s right-hand upright from 25 yards.
Despite a degree of late pressure, the visitors failed to create a chance of note and their disappointment was compounded by the late dismissal of substitute Jeffrey Judge for a stamp on Rice in injury time.
Shamrock Rovers: Richard Brush; Conor McCormack, Ken Oman, Derek Foran, Conor Powell; Sean O’Connor (Thomas Stewart, 89), James Chambers (Pat Sullivan, 87), Ronan Finn, Stephen Rice, Billy Dennehy; Karl Sheppard (Ciaran Kilduff, 59).
Subs not used: Barry Murphy (GK), Daniel Ledwith, Gary McCabe, Mark Sandford.
Limerick: Barry Ryan; Shane Costello (Barry Sheedy, 73), Robbie Williams, Stephen Foran, Patrick Nzuzi; Shane Treacy, Danny Galbraith (Darragh Rainsfort, 67), Dave O’Leary (Jeffrey Judge, 87), Stephen Bradley, Alex Bossekota; Rory Gaffney.
Subs not used: Shane Cusack (GK), Brian O’Callaghan, Joe Gamble, Val Feeney.
Referee: Neil Doyle (Dublin)