By CIAN O'CONNELL
Airtricity League leaders St Patrick's Athletic are turning these type of wins into a fine and familiar habit.
It was another satisfying Saturday evening performance for the Saints, prompted by the neat touches of Killian Brennan, as they were far too clinical for Limerick.
A few hours later, news filtered through to the capital about Sligo Rovers' draw with Bohemians, so Pat's are now six ahead of Derry City and seven in front of the Bit O'Red.
Around Inchicore those figures give cause for optimism, and manager Liam Buckley was content with how his team prevailed in a potentially tricky game due to the central midfield smarts of Greg Bolger, Chris Forrester, and Brennan in particular.
"Killian has been fantastic, he has been brilliant, a tremendous signing. Playing against him, he always did something, whether a free-kick or a pass," said Buckley.
"But now that I'm working with him, it's only enhanced my belief of what a top player he is. I've seen in him training and he's tremendous. He's great in the dressing room, he's great in training, I love watching him train, some of the stuff he does is top-class."
Six victories and a draw in their past seven league encounters offers proof of the strides Pat's have made. Even though they never seriously examined the Pat's defence, Limerick had been diligent during a tepid first half, but everything altered two minutes before the break.
Stephen Folan's underhit back-pass had Barry Ryan scrambling and Brennan expertly stroked the loose ball home. Limerick boss Stuart Taylor acknowledged it was the decisive moment.
"Everybody makes mistakes, he certainly didn't intend to do it. St Pat's have got quality in the final third and they showed that quality by getting a goal out of one of our errors," said Taylor. "What it does do is highlight that you cannot make errors at this level in your own defensive third. You will be punished more often than not, and that is what happened."
After the restart, with Bolger as effective as he was industrious in the centre of the park, Pat's passing style had Limerick in plenty of bother.
Substitute Anto Flood made an instant impact, evading Ryan's challenge to stroke a second home from an acute angle seconds after being introduced on 58 minutes.
With Conor Kenna and Kenny Browne commanding at the back, a Limerick revival was always unlikely and Buckley's charges chalked up a 12th clean sheet in 17 matches.
"It's fantastic. We had a really good defensive record last year, but I'd like to think we can better that to some degree, the whole team, the back four and those in front of them," added Buckley.
In the closing stages Limerick were in damage-limitation mode, but Jake Kelly decorated the Saints' convincing victory in stoppage-time, finishing off substitute Sean Gannon's cross.
Then Sligo's latest stalemate brought further joy as the Saints march on armed with increasing hope and expectation.
St Patrick's Ath – Clarke; O'Brien, Kenna, Brown (O'Callaghan, 46), Bermingham; Bolger, Forrester (Gannon, 72), Brennan; Byrne (McFaul, 49), Fagan (Flood, 57), Kelly.
Limerick – Ryan; Nzuzi, Brown, Folan, Williams (McGrath, 71); Gamble (Feeney, 82); Bradley, O'Leary, Tracy; Galbraith; Gaffney.
Ref – P McLaughlin (Monaghan)
|8||St. Patrick's Athletic||33||39|
|10||Galway United FC||33||35|