Ryan Brennan 32' -
Andrew Dempsey reports from Tolka Park
Shelbourne went top of the table thanks to a nervy 1-0 win over a dogged Cobh Ramblers at Tolka Park on Friday evening.
Ryan Brennan’s goal on the half-hour mark proved decisive as the Rams were unable to level proceedings against their Dublin counterparts.
Shels came into the game with five wins in seven – now six in eight – while the Rams were winless in their previous five.
Reds boss Ian Morris was forced to watch on from the stands as he made two changes from last week’s win over Wexford with Conan Byrne and Lorcan Fitzgerald coming in for James English and Dayle Rooney respectively.
Stephen Henderson rang the changes for his Cobh Ramblers side with three swaps from their most recent defeat at home to Limerick with Stephen Christopher, Stephen O’Leary and Greg Henry all starting.
Despite their recent run of poor results, it was Cobh who started the better and could have easily taken an early lead through the head of Charlie Lyons.
Lyons was found free in the penalty area after Stephen Christopher’s pinpoint delivery found the head of the Rams central defender, but Colin McCabe saved well, forcing a corner.
The St Colman’s Park outfit continued to press a Shels side who were lacking energy during the opening stages of the game – as Jaze Kabia and Denzil Fernandes both impressed with their relentless pressing of the Reds back four.
However, Henderson’s young Rams were punished for their lack of a cutting edge just after the half-hour mark when ex-St Patrick’s Athletic midfielder Brennan saw his looping header find its way into the back of the net.
Karl Moore’s exquisite delivery was met by the lively Brennan, who saw his header creep over Paul Hunt in the Cobh Ramblers net as the Reds opened the scoring, much to the relief of the Tolka Park faithful.
Cobh, rattled by the concession of the goal against the run of play, were perhaps fortunate to not find themselves further behind with the aforementioned Moore, Shane Farrell and Conan Byrne all going close for the Richmond Road outfit as the half-time break approached.
Continuing on from their strong finish to the opening period, Shelbourne pressed well during the opening quarter of an hour in the second period but were unable to create a real clear-cut opportunity.
As the hour mark ticked by, the Reds became quite sloppy in possession and Cobh began to grab a foothold in the game through Kabia and Fernandes, with David Hurley also impressing in the middle of the park.
Goalscorer Brennan went close with 20 to play after getting on the end of a quickly taken free kick but he was unable to steer his effort on target, much to the dismay of the fervent Shels support.
The ex-Drogheda United midfielder was then forced off injured shortly after as Jason McGuinness was forced into changing the focus of the Shelbourne game plan in the absence of head coach Ian Morris.
Cobh, however, fashioned plenty of openings themselves and were unfortunate to find themselves behind with Kabia and Stephen O’Leary both just missing the flight of a Michael O’Rourke ball into danger.
Shels had an opportunity to wrap up all three points just under ten minutes from time through James English, who attempted to roll the ball past Hunt in the Rams goal, but Hurley hacked the ball clear just in time.
Farrell then forced a top class save from Hunt again late on as it was Shelbourne who held out for all three points, confirming that Cobh have gone six games without a win, and sending the Reds top of the table.
Shelbourne: Colin McCabe; Luke Byrne, Lorcan Fitzgerald, Aidan Friel, Derek Prendergast; Oscar Brennan, Ryan Brennan (Darragh Noone 73), Conan Byrne (James English 73), Shane Farrell, Karl Moore; Ciarán Kilduff.
Subs not used: Dean Delany, Flavio Marku, Daniel McKenna, Greg Moorhouse, Dayle Rooney.
Booked: Oscar Brennan (46).
Cobh Ramblers: Paul Hunt; Charlie Lyons, James McSweeney, Ben O'Riordan, Kevin Taylor (Michael O'Rourke 61); Stephen Christopher (Ian Turner 85), Denzil Fernandes, Greg Henry, David Hurley, Jaze Kabia, Stephen O'Leary (Nathan West 85).
Subs not used: Stephen Kenny, Matthew Lambe, Brian Murphy, Adam Mylod.
Booked: Stephen Christopher (61), David Hurley (64), Michael O’Rourke (68).
Referee: Michael Connolly.
Attendance: 760 (official).
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Ryan Brennan (Shelbourne).