Andrew Dempsey reports from Tolka Park
Shelbourne maintained their unbeaten start to their First Division campaign on Friday evening thanks to a comfortable 3-1 win at home to promotion rivals UCD.
A brace from Ryan Brennan and a first-half opener from John Ross Wilson gave Shels the platform to extend their lead at the top of the table to five points ahead of the Students.
Harvey O’Brien did end up scoring for the visitors – although the County Mayo native’s strike proved to be only a consolation in the end.
UCD came into the game after being held to a scoreless draw by Cork City at the Belfield Bowl last weekend.
Ian Morris’ charges almost took an early, impromptu lead. O’Brien’s misplaced header almost beat Lorcan Healy at his back-post, but the English-born ‘keeper got down well to deny Shels.
The Reds maintained their good start – and they had calls for a penalty dismissed as Shane Farrell was booked for simulation in the fifth minute.
Ryan Brennan then went close for the hosts in the 17th minute – but Healy once again got down well to batt away the Drogheda native’s acrobatic effort on goal.
The former Drogheda United and St. Patrick’s Athletic playmaker was found by Shane Farrell’s tantalising cross – but he could not convert.
However, Shels were not to be denied – and they took a richly-deserved lead mid way through the half through John Ross Wilson.
He found himself free at the back post following Kevin O’Connor’s inswinging ball into the box to nod home.
And UCD’s deficiencies at set-pieces reared its head again moments later as Brennan doubled the hosts’ lead.
The former Drogheda United playmaker was found free in the six-yard box by another one of O’Connor’s great balls into the box – heading past UCD ‘keeper Healy with relative ease.
Brennan then almost grabbed a third before the half-hour mark, but he was adjudged to have been offside after he was slipped in by Yoyo Mahdy’s deft through ball.
But UCD were handed a lifeline in the 41st minute of the game as O’Brien smacked home from close range after Shels could not deal with Evan Weir’s free-kick.
However, that opening was quickly dashed as Brennan headed home his second of the night at the near post.
The 29-year-old beat Healy to the ball at the near-post, giving Shels a 3-1 lead the break in a surreal first-half that saw each goal come from a set-piece.
UCD started the second-half the better of the two teams – but they were perhaps fortunate to stay with ten-men on the pitch.
Referee Gavin Colfer looked to have had his red card ready to brandish to Sam Todd – but he opted to give the Donegal native a booking after his challenge on Farrell for the hosts.
But the Students once again struggled to break down the hosts – although they did have a welcome sight as Evan Osam made his long-awaited return, albeit off the bench in a dour second-half.
However, not even Osam’s keenly awaited return could inspire a UCD fightback as the Reds maintained their unbeaten start to the season – and secured their fourth win in five games ahead of next weekend’s mouth-watering clash at home to a struggling Galway United.
Shelbourne: Brendan Clarke; Kevin O'Connor, Ally Gilchrist, Luke Byrne (c), John Ross Wilson; Brian McManus (Sean Quinn 86), Yoyo Mahdy (Dayle Rooney 78), JJ Lunney, Shane Farrell; Michael O'Connor (George Poynton 61), Ryan Brennan.
Subs not used: Kyle O'Connor, Glen McAuley, Maxim Kouogun, Alex Cetiner, Jack Brady, Michael Barker.
Booked: Shane Farrell (5), George Poynton (73).
UCD: Lorcan Healy; Evan Weir, Sam Todd (c), Harvey O'Brien; Michael McHugh (Adam Lennon 71), Dara Keane, Paul Doyle (Donal Higgins 80), Mark Dignam (Evan Osam 71), Sean Brennan (Adam Verdon 74); Colm Whelan, Liam Kerrigan.
Subs not used: Carl Williams, Danu Kinsella Bishop, Michael Gallagher, Luke Boore, Ciaran Behan.
Booked: Evan Weir (29) ,Mark Dignam (45) ,Sam Todd (52) Evan Osam (75).
Referee: Gavin Colfer
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Ryan Brennan (Shelbourne).