LOI Premier Division
IT’S BEEN a long six years for weary Shelbourne fans but they finally got their reward when Premier Division football returned to Tolka Park on Friday night with the visit of Dundalk.
The result didn’t go their way but there were plenty of positives for manager Ian Morris following a spirited second-half comeback that, on another night, could have yielded at least a point.
Two set-piece goals had the Reds 2-0 down at the break, both of them preventable, but a Gary Deegan wonderstrike early in the second-half preceded a dominant finish from the home side.
Karl Sheppard and Ciaran Kilduff – who scored the winner at Cork City on the opening day – saw gilt-edged chances denied by the imperious Gary Rogers as the clock ticked down.
The Premier Division champions finished with six defenders on the pitch, which itself was an indication of the respect the Drumcondra club had earned during an encounter in atrocious weather.
“There were so many fine margins — it was a little slip, or it was one-v-one, or it just didn’t quite come off for us,” Morris said.
“The positive is we’re creating chances. We’ve shown we can play, we can dig in when we need to. We’ve shown a lot.
“We know what type of characters we have in the build-up, we know what type of quality we have. To concede from two set pieces, you can’t afford to do that.
“That’s why Dundalk have been as good as they have for years — they make you pay with them little fine margins.”
Shels started the game at a frenetic pace and made all the early running but they found themselves from Dundalk’s first meaningful set-piece.
Michael Duffy’s corner was allowed reach the back post where former Shels defender Andy Boyle was on hand to bundle the ball home.
The Reds responded positively and looked set to go in a goal down at the break when lightning struck twice and Patrick Hoban headed home Duffy’s free kick.
Shels trailed 2-0 at the break, despite competing well, but they got the goal they deserved eight minutes into the second half.
A corner kick was cleared only as far as Deegan on the edge of the box, and he thumped an unstoppable volley into the top corner with the aid of the post.
Shels pushed on for an equaliser but couldn’t quite find the killer touch and a nervous Dundalk held out to take the three points.
The Reds had an unexpected seven-day turnover ahead of Friday’s derby with St Patrick’s Athletic at Tolka Park after their Monday fixture at Finn Harps was called off due to heavy overnight snow.