Paul Corcoran reports from Eamonn Deacy Park
A cold and wet Eamonn Deacy Park hosted one of the biggest fixtures of the weekend on Friday night as Shelbourne travelled west to face Galway United.
There were no goals to speak of, unfortunately, as the sides played out a 0-0 draw to start their campaigns with the major talking point being the sending off of Glen McAuley before the half-time break.
Shelbourne had the opening chance of the game when JJ Lunney had the ball played to his feet inside the box in the 2nd minute. The midfielder couldn’t find his composure and somehow blasted the ball over the crossbar.
At the other end of the field, Ruairí Keating showed some quick thinking with a deft through ball into the path of Padraic Cunningham.
The striker took the ball on and towards the endline before chancing a close range effort on goal that Brendan Clarke managed to deflect behind the goal.
Around the 25-minute mark the home side had a series of chances thwarted starting with a well struck free-kick from Mikie Rowe that drew a punched save from Clarke.
After a sequence from a Galway corner-kick moments later, Conor McCormack had a second chance to play the ball back into the box where he found the head of Cunningham.
Cunningham nodded the ball on to Keating, and his header was batted behind by Clarke.
Galway dominated much of the first half and they should have taken the lead ten minutes before half-time after great pressure from Cunningham forced Kouogun and Clarke into a major error.
The ball fell to Keating, who had an open goal, but he couldn’t get control of the ball and drew the defence on himself only to blaze wide.
A major incident occurred just before half time when McAuley received a straight red for a two-footed challenge on Maurice Nugent.
The challenge brought the game to a standstill as both teams squared up to one another in the centre of the pitch.
Referee Eoghan O’Shea managed to get the game back under control with just McAuley being dismissed and doling out bookings to Stephen Walsh and Maxim Kouogun.
Five minutes after the break, Clarke came to Shelbourne’s rescue again with two saves in quick succession, the first coming from the boot of Rowe who was found by Walsh at the back post.
Cunningham reacted first to pick up the rebound but his blasted effort drew another good save from Clarke to keep the sides level.
Second half substitute Michael O’Connor came close to scoring a goal of the season contender around the hour mark when he curled the ball goalward from outside the box.
It looked destined for the top corner but it dinged the crossbar and bounced away, much to Galway’s relief.
With just over 20 minutes to go, Shane Doherty almost broke away one on one with Clarke. Kouogun tracked the striker excellently and managed to stay with the pacey American before doing just enough to dispossess Doherty and avert the danger.
United were on top for most of the rest of the second half but the home side couldn’t find the quality needed to break down a very organised Shelbourne side.
Galway United: Conor Kearns; Gary Boylan, Maurice Nugent, Conor O'Keeffe, Stephen Walsh (Colin Kelly 83); Shane Duggan, David Hurley (Wilson Waweru 90), Conor McCormack (c), Mikie Rowe (Shane Doherty 61); Padraic Cunningham, Ruairi Keating.
Subs not used: Killian Brouder, Kevin Horgan, Christopher Horgan, Mikey Place, Carlton Ubaezuonu.
Booked: Shane Duggan (13), Mikie Rowe (30), Stephen Walsh (41).
Shelbourne: Brendan Clarke; Ally Gilchrist, Maxim Kouogun, Kevin O'Connor, John Ross Wilson; Ryan Brennan (Brian McManus 61), JJ Lunney, George Poynton (Shane Farrell 85), Sean Quinn; Yoyo Mahdy (Michael O'Connor 46), Glen McAuley.
Subs not used: Jack Brady, Gerardo Bruna, Alex Cetiner, Denzil Fernandes, Dayle Rooney, David Toure.
Booked: Ryan Brennan (24) ,Maxim Kouogun (41) Michael O'Connor (88).
Sent off: Glen McAuley (41).
Referee: Eoghan O'Shea
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Brendan Clarke (Shelbourne).