League Report: Waterford 1 - 1 Shelbourne

Ryan Burke slide in for a challenge during Waterford's 1-1 draw with Shelbourne on Friday, 16 February 2024.

Ryan Burke slide in for a challenge during Waterford's 1-1 draw with Shelbourne on Friday, 16 February 2024. Credit: Hugh de Paor (ETPhotos)

Patrick O’ Connor reports from the RSC in Waterford

Waterford and Shelbourne shared the spoils in the opening game of the 2024 season when they played out a 1-1 draw at the Regional Sports Centre (RSC) in Waterford on Friday night.

Waterford dominated the game for the most part after taking an early lead, but they were eventually reeled in by Shelbourne with the latter’s second half substitutes having a major impact on the outcome.

There was a raucous atmosphere around the RSC well before kick off as the mainly local support in the huge crowd began to enjoy their return to Premier Division football after a two-year hiatus.

The players on the pitch did not disappoint them and Waterford got off to a blistering start by taking the lead with only two minutes on the clock.

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A quick kick out by Blues ‘keeper Sam Sargeant found its way to Fleetwood Town loanee Maleace Asamoah and he accelerated past the Shels defence and slotted the ball past Conor Kearns with confidence.

The Blues went on to dominate the first half with Asamoah and Conor Parsons posing a constant threat to the Shels defence who had lost centre back Shane Griffin to injury after a robust challenge as early as the 12th minute.

The pre match misty rain made the playing surface very slippery and Griffin’s challenge was one of many as the tackles were flying in on both sides, referee Kevin O’Sullivan issuing seven yellow cards and one red card over the course of the game.

The sides went in 1-0 at the break with the Reds getting more of a foothold in the game in the second period, particularly after Damian Duff made some significant changes in the 60th minute.

Shane Farrell in particular played in a more advanced role when he was introduced for Mark Coyle and he was instrumental in forcing the equaliser that their second half performance probably deserved.

The Waterford defence were unusually hesitant in dealing with a Shels attack in the 77th minute and when the ball broke to Farrell, he teed it up for another substitute Sean Boyd to slot it past Sargeant from close range to make it 1-1.

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Boyd then went on to become hero turned villain for the visitors when he needlessly elbowed Waterford substitute Grant Horton in the face in the 84th minute, referee O’Sullivan immediately brandishing the red card.

The home side sought to make the most of their numerical advantage but apart from a few half chances by Barry Baggley and substitute Romeo Akachukwu, Conor Kearns was never really troubled.

There were 10 minutes of added time but neither side could force a winner and 1-1 was probably a fair result given the ebb and flow of the game.

Waterford: Sam Sargeant; Ryan Burke (Grant Horton 60), Darragh Leahy, Robert McCourt, Darragh Power, Kacper Radkowski; Maleace Asamoah (Ben McCormack 78), Barry Baggley, Niall O'Keeffe, Connor Parsons (Romeo Akachukwu 72); Padraig Amond.

Subs not used: Matthew Connor, Adam Queally, Joseph Forde, Kacper Skwierczyński, Dean McMenamy, Gbemi Arubi.

Booked: Niall O'Keeffe (17), Ryan Burke (50), Robert McCourt (62), Grant Horton (87).

Shelbourne: Conor Kearns; Sean Gannon, Shane Griffin (Kameron Ledwidge 12), Gavin Molloy, Lewis Temple (Evan Caffrey 60); Mark Coyle (Shane Farrell 60), Jonathan Lunney, John O'Sullivan, Tyreke Wilson (William Jarvis 60); Liam Burt, Matthew Smith (Sean Boyd 68)

Subs not used: Lorcan Healy, Keith Ward, Jad Hakiki, Dean Williams.

Booked: Kameron Ledwidge (29), Mark Coyle (48), Shane Farrell (85).

Sent off: Sean Boyd (84).

Referee: Kevin O'Sullivan.

Attendance: 4,390

extratime.com Player of the Match: Maleace Asamoah (Waterford)