Cathal Mc Auley reports from Tolka Park
Shelbourne secured the First Division title and a return to the top flight at the first time of asking with a cagey 1-0 win over Treaty United at Tolka Park on Friday evening.
A Georgie Poynton spot kick was enough to bring the title to Drumcondra as Treaty will have to wait to make sure of their place in the play-offs.
It looked like nerves played a factor in the opening period of the game as neither side settled, leading to an extremely poor opening 20 minutes.
Loose passes and aimless long balls were the standard until the second quarter of the match when Shels finally started to look like something resembling champions elect.
The Reds had a couple of long-distance efforts come close to breaking the deadlock around the half hour mar; first through Shane Farrell, whose powerful volley flew past Tadhg Ryan’s post and was shortly followed by a low shot from Poynton which fizzed just wide.
Treaty were vulnerable from Shels’ set pieces and this aerial superiority almost paid off as the ball ended up in the Limerick side’s net but referee Alan Patchell blew for a foul instead of pointing to the centre circle.
The Reds had slowly moved through the gears as the half reached its end, creating a succession of chances including an Aly Gilchrist header which came back off the post and a shot from an acute angle by Kevin O’Connor.
Treaty returned to the dressing room relieved to have maintained parity as they were clinging on for dear life in the period before the break.
The Shannonsiders regrouped well during the interval and looked much more composed in the second half, gradually playing their way back into the game and eventually winning control of proceedings.
Marc Ludden played a number of dangerous balls across the Shelbourne penalty area and was nearly the provider for the game’s opening goal as he picked out Matt Keane who was denied by a fantastic reflex save from Brendan Clarke who had not had a save of note to make up to that point.
Just as it seemed like Shelbourne’s party would be postponed until another day, all of Treaty’s good work in the second half was undone in an instant.
Shane Farrell received the ball with his back to goal and was pulled to ground, leaving the referee with an easy decision to make as he quickly pointed to the spot.
Poynton calmly converted to the penalty cuing wild celebrations from the home crowd and leaving Shelbourne on the brink of the title.
Treaty kept endeavouring to get the equaliser and were still very much in the game, but they could not fashion a clear chance as Shels were able to continually catch them on the break.
Ryan Brennan almost made sure of the victory with three minutes to play as his shot from the edge of the box went just over the bar, but it was an inconsequential miss as the referee blew the full- time whistle shortly after sending the Tolka Park crowd into rapturous celebrations as they stormed the pitch to celebrate with their players.
Shels were far from their best as they could only score via the penalty spot and were saved by the fingertips of Clarke to deny Keane midway through the second half, but no one at Tolka Park could care less as their side secured the First Division title and promotion with three games to spare.
Treaty will have to wait until next week’s trip to UCD to try and make sure of their play-off spot in a night where it was all about Shelbourne making a return to the Premier Division and being back where their supporters feel they belong.
Shelbourne: Brendan Clarke; John Ross Wilson, Kevin O'Connor, Kameron Ledwidge (Brian McManus 66), Ally Gilchrist, Luke Byrne; George Poynton, Shane Farrell, Yassine En-Neyah (Dayle Rooney 84), Ryan Brennan; Michael O'Connor.
Subs not used: Jack Brady, Maxim Kouogun, Michael Barker, Gavin Molloy, Eric Molloy, Yoyo Mahdy, Stanley Anaebonan .
Booked: Michael O'Connor (35), Ryan Brennan (81), George Poynton (85).
Treaty United: Tadhg Ryan; Mark Walsh, Anthony O'Donnell, Marc Ludden, Charlie Fleming; Clyde O'Connell (Dean George 85), Conor Melody (William Armshaw 80), Callum McNamara, Matt Keane (Joel Coustrain 80), Stephen Christopher; Sean McSweeney (Kieran Hanlon 46).
Subs not used: Sean McCormack, Alan Murphy, Josh Quinlivan, Sean Oyibo.
Booked: Callum McNamara (56) .
Referee: Alan Patchall.
extratime.com Player of the Match: Georgie Poynton