Cahal McAuley reports from Tolka Park
Shelbourne kept their hopes of a League and Cup double alive after a vital 2-0 win over Galway at Tolka Park on Saturday evening.
Goals from Abbie Larkin and Jessie Stapleton in the opening and closing stages of the game respectively were enough to see off a Galway side that made Shels work hard for the three points.
Peamount United had earlier recorded an emphatic 8-1 victory over Cork City, so Noel King’s side needed nothing less than a win to keep the title race going
The Reds got off to the perfect start as they took the lead after six minutes courtesy of Abbie Larkin’s second goal of the season.
Leah Doyle picked the ball up on the left wing, squaring to Larkin who got across her marker and directed the ball past Leah Hayes Coen into the far corner.
Galway had looked lively in the minutes before the goal and continued to do so, with Chloe Singleton causing problems with her pace down the right- hand side.
The game was end to end with neither side creating anything in the way of clear cut chances until Galway began to look the likelier side in the final 15 minutes of the half.
Emma Starr tried her luck with a half volley from the edge of the box which whizzed over the crossbar.
Minutes later, Abbie Callanan created Galway’s best chance of the half, dancing into the Shelbourne penalty area but seeing her shot blocked by Amanda Budden who did well to come out of her goal quickly and close the space.
Shels were able to survive these scares and make it into the dressing room a goal to the good after an entertaining opening half.
Larkin was almost in for her second goal moments after the restart, being played through by Ciara Grant, but saw her curling effort brilliantly turned around the post by Hayes Coen.
The Shels forward had another chance a few minutes later, taking the ball around the Galway keeper, but some good defending from Becky Walsh made sure she didn’t have the space to get a shot away.
Galway threatened for the first time in the half as a lazy pass by the Shelbourne defence put Singleton in on goal. Budden’s good positioning came to her aid once again as she was able to get her body on top of the ball and keep her side’s clean sheet intact.
Shels began to get a grip on the game inside the final 20 minutes as Larkin spurned a half chance amid numerous dangerous balls from the right wing.
As tensions around the ground grew stronger toward the final stages, Shels finally got the all-important second goal as Jessie Stapleton was played through in acres of space by Larkin and produced a composed finish past Hayes Coen who managed to get a hand on the ball but couldn’t keep it out of the net.
The two-goal cushion settled down the Shelbourne team and they cruised to victory without too much difficulty, keeping themselves in the hunt for the WNL title for another week.
Wexford Youths can no longer catch Peamount, meaning its now a two-horse race for first place.
Shels will make the short trip to Bohemians next week needing to win and hoping that DLR Waves will do them a favour against Peamount, who need to just one more victory to secure the WNL title.
Shelbourne FC: Amanda Budden; Leah F Doyle (Mia Dodd 90), Shauna Fox, Jessica Gargan, Pearl Slattery, Jessie Stapleton; Rachel Graham, Ciara Grant, Alex Kavanagh; Abbie Larkin (Taylor White 90), Saoirse Noonan.
Subs not used: Sophie Lenehan, Keeva Keenan, Rebecca Creagh, Jessica Ziu.
Galway WFC: Leah Hayes Cohen; Becky Walsh, Therese Kinnevey, Meabh de Burca; Emma Starr, Chloe Singleton, Nicole McNamara (Sinead Donovan 79), Savannah McCarthy, Aoibheann Costello (Saoirse Healy 63); Lynsey McKey, Abbie Callanan.
Subs not used: Hannah Walsh, Karen Connolly.
Referee: David Dunne
Player of the Match: Abbie Larkin (Shelbourne)