League Report: Shelbourne 2 - 1 Shamrock Rovers

Rory Gaffney & Shels Kameron Ledwidge

Rory Gaffney & Shels Kameron Ledwidge Credit: Paul Dolan (ETPhotos)

Christine Allen reports from Tolka Park

Shelbourne survived a Shamrock Rovers bombardment to clinch a 2-1 historic victory at Tolka Park following a spirited and gutsy display at home on Friday night.

The crimson flares set alight by The Tolka Park faithful cloaked the 22 players as they disappeared in its mist in the moments before kick-off, the haunting lilt of the re-worked Cranberries anthem ‘Zombie’ adding to the electric atmosphere.

The home side were quick out the blocks, John O’Sullivan and former Rovers player Sean Gannon linking up well on the right flank, the home side winning a flurry of set pieces in the opening minutes.

Duff’s men were rewarded for their pressure when a penalty was awarded in the 3rd minute, defender Lee Grace penalised for grasping Paddy Barrett by the wrist.

Tyreke Wilson stepped up to face the Rovers Away contingent and dragged the ball wide and left.

Rovers looked uncharacteristically uncomfortable in possession and were quick to loft long balls towards striker Rory Gaffney whose frustration showed in a number of physical encounters with the home side’s defence.

Shelbourne did not allow their miss from the spot kick to derail their attack and on 16 minutes almost broke the deadlock with an impressive combined run of play between O’Sullivan, Wilson and skipper Mark Coyle which resulted in a golden opportunity for 21 year old Will Jarvis.

German keeper Leon Pohls would make the first of a number of fine saves, denying the former Hull City attacker of the opener.

Rovers could not deny Duff’s eleven for long, a free kick finding the head of Paddy Barrett who laid off Coyle at the edge of the box.

The finish was sublime, Captain fantastic placing the ball into the top right hand corner in the eighth minute, slapping the Shelbourne crest in celebration - former TD Finian McGrath watching approvingly from the sideboard behind the net.

With 27 minutes played in the first half, goalkeeper Conor Kearns spotted Jarvis making a darting run in space on the left flank and hoofed the ball in his direction.

With the grace of a ballet dancer, Jarvis controlled the ball with one deft touch, his legs pumping beyond the Rovers defence, before he placed it with his right foot into the back of the net - a gruff plant of a kiss from manager Damien Duff his reward, before play restarted.

The second goal awakened a sleeping giant in the Dublin 24 visitors, and they began to rally, combining slick passes which resulted in two chances in quick succession from Dylan Watts including a left footed volley and a shot that flashed across goal.

Rovers were now on the hunt, hungry to get one back before the half-time whistle blew.

A pinpoint precision pass from Sean Kavanagh would result in a looping ball to the back post, where Rory Gaffney headed directly at Shelbourne keeper Conor Kearns, who would stop the Rovers onslaught in the second half with a series of gravity defying saves.

In the opening minutes of the second-half, Dylan Watts' powerful strike ricocheted off the cross- bar, a clear sign of intent from The Hoops.

Rovers passed the ball around the red shirts with swagger, snuffing out any hint of a Shels counter attack and a goal seemed inevitable.

In the 49th minute, fan favourite Dylan Watts found Rovers number 10 Graham Burke who rolled the ball across the six yard box to Rory Gaffney who pounced. 2-1.

The tempo shifted once again in the game, the play slowing and the atmosphere in the stadium dropped noticeably.

Coyle characteristically battled with true grit in midfield, breaking up Rovers’ spells of possession at every opportunity, and a wayward hit by Gaffney gave The Reds fans something to cheer about.

Paddy Barrett made a number of timely tackles when Rovers threatened to equalise and while both sides had a number of chances neither side could convert.

Stephen Bradley made a flurry of changes in the second half, placing all of his bets on green and fortifying the Hoops attack in an attempt to keep Kearns occupied between the sticks.

Shelbourne still looked dangerous, Coyle forcing Leon Pohls to make an athletic dive with a driving shot that luckily for the goalkeeper, was palmed into the feet of an incoming Rovers defender.

With ten minutes to play, forward Graham Burke took a swing at the ball just outside the box which looked to be shooting towards the top bin yet just overshot the crossbar.

Temperatures flared as the minutes ticked down and Shelbourne looked to be within touching distance of their first victory over their old Ringsend neighbours since 2012.

Wilson dived studs up in a reckless airborne challenge on Dylan Watts and a series of yellow cards were brandished over the coming period by referee Robert Harvey as Rovers (bicycle kicks and all) threw the kitchen sink at the home side.

Six minutes of additional time would not be enough to allow the reigning champions to rescue a point, and the contest ended 2-1 to Shels who go third in the league table.

Shelbourne: Conor Kearns; Patrick Barrett, Sean Gannon, Kameron Ledwidge, Gavin Molloy, Tyreke Wilson; Mark Coyle, Jonathan Lunney (Jad Hakiki 90), John O'Sullivan (Evan Caffrey 53); William Jarvis (John Martin 66), Matthew Smith (Shane Farrell 66).

Subs not used: Lorcan Healy, Luca Cailloce, Lewis Temple, Keith Ward, Dean Williams.

Booked: Sean Gannon (90).

Shamrock Rovers: Léon-Maurice Pöhls; Daniel Cleary (Aaron Greene 71), Lee Grace, Seán Hoare (Graham Burke 35), Joshua Honohan; Darragh Burns, Seán Kavanagh (Markus Poom 46), Darragh Nugent (Johnny Kenny 78), Gary O'Neill, Dylan Watts; Rory Gaffney.

Subs not used: Toms Leitis, Lee Steacy, Richard Towell, Cian Barrett, Conan Noonan.

Booked: None.

Referee: Rob Harvey.