David Wilson reports from Tolka Park
There was a buzz in the air as Shelbourne made their long-awaited Tolka Park return to Premier Division football as they welcomed league champions Dundalk.
A dominant first half display from Dundalk should’ve comfortably secured all three points for the champions but a spirited second half display from Shels meant that Vinny Perth’s charges didn’t have it all their own way.
Goals from Andy Boyle and Patrick Hoban put the Lilywhites in the driving seat in a windy and wet Drumcondra venue. Skipper Gary Deegan did manage to get one back for the Reds but it wasn’t enough to take any points off the defending Champions.
The pitch wasn’t one which aided Dundalk’s usual free-flowing football but they still produced enough quality in comparison to last year’s First Division champions.
The Town dominated the opening 20 minutes without testing Jack Brady in the home goal. However, some wonderful near interplay down the left from Dane Massey, Cammy Smith, Michael Duffy and Jordan Flores resulted in Deegan executing a perfect slide tackle on Duffy as he bore down on goal.
From the resulting corner, Smith managed to flick on a header to the back post where Andy Boyle couldn’t miss as he tapped in from two yards out to put the Lilywhites in front.
Dundalk continued to put Shels under pressure, as the home side could not retain possession. The 4-4-2 shape Ian Morris deployed left a lot to be desired as their midfield two of Georgie Poynton and Deegan couldn’t handle the overload created by Dundalk’s central midfield three of Chris Shields, Gregg Sloggett and Flores.
The second goal of the night came from yet another Dundalk set piece. A delicious in-swinging delivery from Duffy from a wide free kick met the head of Patrick Hoban who made no mistake as he headed into the ground and past Brady just before the half time interval.
A sluggish start from the Dundalk allowed the home side back into the game. A succession of corners and free kicks resulted in a clearance to the edge of the box which found Deegan. He controlled well before striking one which deflected off the post and into the corner of the net nine minutes in to the second half. Tolka Park was rocking as the home side were back in the game.
Shels played the second half with a lot more urgency, displaying plenty of spirit and fight but just could not find the quality to nab an equaliser.
Dane Massey had Dundalk’s only real chance of the second half as his effort from ten yards out was blocked by Daniel O’Reilly. Shels continued to push forward, the introduction of Sean Quinn and Shane Farrell provides energy and bite as Deegan was replaced by Ryan Brennan in an effort to add more guile to the midfield.
Jaze Kabia was nearly through on goal after a bobble deceived Hoare, only a last ditch stop from Shields prevented Kabia from getting a strike on goal.
On a bad night for attacking football, Shels just couldn’t get the equaliser which their second half display deserved as Dundalk held on for another three important points but Shels can take encouragement from their second half performance.
Shelbourne: Jack Brady (GK); Aidan Friel, Daniel O’Reilly, Luke Byrne, Alex O’Hanlon; Georgie Poynton (Sean Quinn 71), Gary Deegan (C) (Ryan Brennan 74), Karl Sheppard, Jaze Kabia; Aaron Dobbs (Shane Farrell 58), Ciarán Kilduff
Subs not Used: Colin McCabe (GK), Oscar Brennan, Dayle Rooney, Lorcan Fitzgerald,
Yellow Card: Gary Deegan (16), Sean Quinn (76), Aidan Friel (79)
Dundalk: Gary Rogers (GK); Sean Gannon, Andy Boyle, Sean Hoare, Dane Massey; Chris Shields (C), Jordan Flores (Daragh Leahy 89), Gregg Sloggett; Michael Duffy (Brian Gartland 84), Cammy Smith (Dan Kelly 58); Patrick Hoban
Subs not Used: Aaron McCarey (GK), Will Patching, Dan Cleary, Lido Lotefa
Yellow Card: Gregg Sloggett (12), Chris Shields (51), Jordan Flores (64), Sean Hoare (92), Dan Kelly (93)
Referee: Damien MacGraith
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Andy Boyle (Dundalk)