Shelbourne secured a comfortable 4-0 win at home to Cork City on a blustery Saturday afternoon in the capital.
Shels’ Rachel Graham and Jessica Gargan netted two brilliant strikes home to make it 2-0 at half-time – with striker Emily Whelan and captain Pearl Slattery compounding the north Dublin’s side’s dominance in the second half – with goals of their own.
Cork City’s day wasn’t made any easier when goalkeeper Maria O’Sullivan was sent off for taking down Whelan in the first five minutes of the second half. O’Sullivan’s dismissal proved to be a pinnacle moment for her side’s chances of salvaging something from the game.
It was Cork however who had the first chance of the game. Striker Saoirse Noonan rose tallest to get a strong header from the incoming corner – but Shelbourne midfielder Jamie Finn was at hand on the line to clear it away.
Shelbourne always looked dangerous going forward. Winger Isabel Atkinson provided many scintillating runs down the left flank – and nearly snuck in a shot in the sixth minute, but the angle was against her.
Shelbourne’s first goal came in the 25th minute. Cork’s defence allowed Graham acres of space from 25 yards out – and the midfielder obliged, with a thunderous shot. The ball appeared to rise just above O’Sullivan’s fingertips – who may have been impeded by the blistering sun.
Cork nearly had the perfect response five minutes later as Shelbourne’s defence was caught napping, allowing for the ball to weave through to Eabhla O’Mahony – and her powerful shot would have been the equaliser – but for the strong hands of Rachel Kelly.
If the first goal sounded good, the second was even better. Right-back Jessica Gargan got herself forward – and as the ball was played down the line, over her right shoulder – Gargan scooped it up first time and watched it nestle into the far left-hand corner.
O’Sullivan’s red card severely blundered Cork’s chances of getting back into the game. While there was no doubt in the foul – Cork’s sideline furiously debated with the fourth official that O’Sullivan was not the last woman back – demanding that it just be considered a yellow, however, their appeals were all in vain.
Shelbourne meanwhile, didn’t make life any easier on replacement keeper Abby McCarthy. Emily Whelan on the 55th minute – left defender Zara Foley for dead before slotting home to make it 3-0.
It was 4-0 on the hour-mark. Atkinson’s corner came back to her – where she was allowed the freedom and space to whip it to the back post. Her cross found her captain, Slattery, who made no mess with the header.
The last half-hour became a bit of a shooting practice at times for Shelbourne. Cork certainly looked frustrated at the back, and their ill-discipline allowed Shels to pile on the pressure with an avalanche of free-kicks.
It could have been five in the 72nd minute – when Atkinson played another low ball into the box – which rolled all the way out to Rebecca Cooke – but her shot was blocked.
To their credit, Cork did push on to nick a consolation. A quick counter-attack led by Noonan sprayed the ball to Sophie Liston out in space – her shot though was straight down the throat of Kelly, who dealt with it comfortably.
Noonan had a go at goal herself minutes later – but her left footed shot sailed wide of the goal.
Overall, it was a convincing win for the Reds and just the result they needed. Their win today means Shels move one point ahead of Peamount. The top two will meet at Greenogue in two weeks time.
Shelbourne: Rachel Kelly, Jessica Gleeson, Isabel Atkinson, Pearl Slattery, Jamie Finn, Alex Kavanagh, Jessica Ziu, Emily Whelan, Rachel Graham, Jessica Gargan, Rebecca Cooke.
Subs: Ciara Grant, Mooney, Taylor White, Ella O’Connell, Mia Dodd, Courtney Higgins, Doyle.
Yellow Cards: None
Cork: Maria O’Sulivan, Nathalie O’Brien (Lauren Walsh 64), Danielle Burke (Shauna McKavanagh 64), Ciara McNamara, Zara Foley, Eabhla O’Mahony , Christina Dring , Soairse Noonan, Sophie Liston, Becky Cassin, Lauren Eglubloniu (Abbie McCarthy).
Subs: Leah Murphy, Nadine Seward, Kate O’Donovan, Laura Shine
Yellow Cards: None
Red Card: Maria O'Sullivan