Bray Wanderers 2 (Joe Doyle 43, Paul Keegan 49)
Limerick FC 0
A Paul Keegan thunderbolt and Joe Doyle header sealed the points as Bray Wanderers began the new era at the Carlisle Grounds in clinical fashion with a 2-0 win over Limerick.
Doyle gave the Seagulls the lead at the end of a scrappy first-half when he rose above the Limerick defence to nod in Dean O’Halloran’s cross, after Seagulls goalkeeper Gabriel Sava had saved a Limerick penalty.
Man-of-the-match Paul Keegan made it two soon after the restart with a sensational strike from 25-yards, as Gary Cronin’s men pushed for more, with Seán Heaney striking the bar with a header late on, and Luka Lovic having his strike well-saved by the Limerick goalkeeper.
The win is Bray’s second in two games, maintaining their perfect start to the 2019 First Division campaign.
Over 1,000 people turned out to witness Bray Wanderers kick-off the new age at a rain-soaked Carlisle Grounds, and were almost rewarded for braving the dreadful conditions with a goal inside just 90 seconds.
Sloppy possession at the back allowed Joe Doyle to nip in and bear down on goal, only for Jack Bradley to make a decent save to keep the Bray front-man out. Doyle got another crack a minute later, spinning past two Limerick men before blasting the ball over the bar from the edge of the box.
While Limerick grew into the game that threatened to get away from the visitors so early on, they struggled to get to terms with the greasy surface, as was evident when a cross-field pass from Jason Hughes bounced off the pitch and went harmlessly wide.
Bray continued to look the more likely to score, especially when bringing the ball up the right-hand side. A pass onto Joe Doyle on the right-side of the box was held up well by the 22-year-old, who laid the ball off to Derek Daly who put the ball narrowly wide.
Despite the pressure, Bray were almost made to pay for their inaccuracy in front of goal when, with 10 minutes of the first-half to go, Limerick were awarded a penalty following loose play in the Bray back-line.
Conor Ellis stepped up, only to have his spot-kick saved well by Gabriel Sava down low to his left. That scare forced Bray into action, as they finally took the lead eight minutes later.
As the clock ticked into the 43rd minute, Dean O’Halloran was sent into space down the right-hand side by Philip Gannon. O’Halloran floated an inviting cross into the middle, allowing Joe Doyle to rise above his marker to head the ball into the bottom corner.
Dylan McGlade had one more shot for Bray, who went into half-time with a deserved 1-0 lead.
If the first-half was sloppy, the second was a demonstration of the quality that the hosts possess all over the park. With just four minutes on the clock, McGlade held the ball up on the edge of the Limerick area, before laying the ball back to captain Paul Keegan.
With the ball set-up for the strike, Keegan took the shot on first-time with his right-foot, sending the ball crashing into the top right-hand corner from 25-yards.
Limerick tried to get back in the game, but found Killian Cantwell and Seán Heaney impossible to crack at the back, while Paul Keegan was putting in the perfect captain’s shift to mop up the play and kick-start Bray counter-attacks.
Once such instance saw Keegan spray the ball out to Dylan Barrett on the left. Barrett then whipped the ball to the back-post for Joe Doyle, who saw his header tremendously saved by Jack Brady, who was keeping Limerick in the game.
Two minutes later, Gary Cronin’s men thought that they had scored a third when Doyle put a clever reverse ball in behind to Derek Daly, only for Daly to see his converted strike ruled out for offside.
Another break, this time led by Doyle, saw Daly released down the left flank, only for his square ball into the centre to be deflected behind. The resulting corner was worked short and squared to substitute Luka Lovic, whose strike was brilliantly saved by Brady.
Another corner was headed against the bar by Seán Heaney, as Bray finished the game strong to claim their second consecutive league win. Next up for Wanderers is the visit of Wexford to the Carlisle Grounds on Monday in the FAI Cup.
WicklowNews Player of the Match: Paul Keegan.
Bray Wanderers: G. Sava; L. Nolan, K. Cantwell, S. Heaney, D. Barrett; D. O’Halloran (for R. Purdy), P. Gannon (for L. Lovic), P. Keegan (c), D. Daly; J. Doyle, D. McGlade.
Limerick FC: J. Brady; S. Kelly (c), S. Russell, R. Williams, J. Hughes (for G. Barry); C. Ellis (for K. Hanlon), S. McSweeney, T. O’Connor, K. O’Sullivan; D. Murphy, A. Fitzgerald.