Despite a change of management in Peter Hutton and Felix Healy, Harps remain rooted to the bottom of the table with a third consecutive defeat since the Derry duo took over.
Indeed had it not been for the bravery and skill of Harps goalkeeper Ciaran Gallagher, the Ballybofey side could have found themselves on the end of an embarrassing scoreline at Jackman Park.
Harps’ first chance fell to the very man they would have wanted it to in Kevin McHugh. Brian O’Callaghan sliced his clearance, the ball fell kindly to the Killea man who went one on one with Ryan but the Harps frontman could do little but warm the Limerick stopper’s palms with a weak effort. Harps would regret this miss in the long run.
Jeffrey Judge and Corie Treacy made up the right hand side for Limerick, causing trouble throughout. The youngsters combined well and the latter produced a dangerous cross which was cleared, but only as far as Sean O’Connor, who shot just wide of the goal.
The best chance of the first half fell to Kerry native Paudie Quinn. Quinn, who took part in Fulham’s FA Youth Cup run last season, has been a touch of class for the Blues since joining in the off-season.
The tireless Shane Tracy went on a darting run from the middle of his own half, kept finding space, and eventually played in Quinn who had taken up the outside left position. His curling effort was just diverted by the fingertips of Gallagher.
The second half began at a quicker pace than the first, the urgency obvious to everyone within the confines of the ground. Young Dave O’Leary forced yet another good save out of Gallagher five minutes in. The young Harps keeper was beginning to frustrate the Limerick faithful.
Another chance arrived five minutes later; a long throw enabled Judge to make his way into the box, he then honestly hopped over a challenge just in time to square a perfect pass to O’Connor, but the ex-Shamrock Rovers man couldn’t convert the chance, the keeper the hindrance once more for Pat Scully’s men.
The goal was to arrive half way through the second half as John Frost showed his desire by chasing down what seemed to be a lost cause. He then skipped past a challenge before winning a corner for his side. Shane Tracy delivered a fantastic ball into the box leaving Purcell to fire home with a magnificently placed header into the far corner. Gallagher had finally been beaten.
Paudie Quinn was next in line for Limerick to have a go, his effort from twenty yards never really looked to trouble the Harps keeper, but did manage to waste a valuable few seconds.
The best second half chance for Harps arrived with five minutes of normal time remaining.
What had looked to have been a mindless hoof up the field caught the Limerick defence by surprise and suddenly McHugh found himself in yards of space, approaching Barry Ryan at pace.
The veteran striker wasted the chance though, as he shot straight into the hands of Ryan, who managed to push the venomous effort over the bar. The warning bells had rung for the home side not to be sloppy.
Moments later, Marc Brolly found space on the left wing and fizzed a menacing diagonal ball across the box, with no Harps player looking even vaguely interested in it.
He was rightly furious with the lack of enthusiasm from his team mates. That was to be the away sides’ last chance, as Limerick saw out the three additional minutes with minimal fuss and move ahead of Longford into fourth – a position Harps can only dream of.
Limerick FC: Barry Ryan, Corie Treacy, Pat Purcell, Brian O’Callaghan, John Frost, Jeffrey Judge, Shane Tracy, David O’Leary, Paudie Quinn (Stephen McGann 84), Peter Hynes, Sean O’Connor (Garbhan Coughlan 62).
Subs Not Used: Dave Ryan, Peter White, Darren Coleman, Brian McCarthy, Garvan Broughall.
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher, Keith Conway, Packie Mailey, Aaron McElwee, Ciaran Coll, Paddy McLaughlin, Thomas Bonner, Christy Connaghan (Gary Merritt 73), Gareth Harkin (Garbhan Friel 67), Marc Brolly, Kevin McHugh.
Subs Not Used: Mark Forker, Aaron O’Hagan, Brian Curtis, Chris Patton.
Booked: Bonner, Coll.