Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Ryan Byrne/INPHO Andy Boyle celebrates his goal.
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Dundalk spoil the party as top-flight football returns to Tolka
A stunning strike from Gary Deegan set up a tense finish.

Shelbourne 1

Dundalk 2

GOALS FROM PAT Hoban and Andy Boyle saw Dundalk beat Shelbourne 2-1 in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division tonight.

In difficult conditions, two goals from set pieces enabled Vinny Perth’s men to establish a 2-0 half-time lead.

However, a stunning strike from Gary Deegan early in the second period got the hosts back into the game, but the Lilywhites hung on for the victory, despite a few nervy second-half moments. 

As Premier Division football returned to Tolka Park for the first time in six years, both sides came into this game on the back of late 1-0 wins last week. On their return to the top flight, Shels downed Cork, while reigning champions Dundalk overcame Derry.

Jordan Flores and Sean Hoare came into the starting XI for the visitors, while Daniel Cleary and Daniel Kelly dropped to the bench.

Meanwhile, there were three changes to the Shels side that won at Turner’s Cross. Ryan Brennan, Sean Quinn and Dayle Rooney all had to be content with a place among the substitutes, and in their stead came Jaze Kabia, Aaron Dobbs and George Poynton.

Both sides struggled to create chances or acquire any real rhythm to their play amid a scrappy opening 10 minutes.

The game livened up shortly thereafter, as Greg Sloggett was booked for cynically dragging back Karl Sheppard, as the former Cork star attempted to launch a counter-attack, prompting angry protests from the home crowd.

Not long after, Gary Deegan also saw yellow for a late challenge on Michael Duffy, as the tension between the two sides threatened to boil over.

In the first real chance of the game on 18 minutes, Dundalk took the lead. Duffy’s corner was flicked on by Sean Hoare and Andy Boyle was in the right place at the far post to tap home against his former club.

Duffy was looking lively, and he fired a pot shot narrowly wide just before the half-hour mark.

It remained tight as half-time approached. Dundalk looked comfortable and in control, while seldom threatening to double their advantage.

Gradually though, the hosts improved, and went close shortly before the break, as Ciarán Kilduff narrowly failed to get on the end of Alex O’Hanlon’s dangerous cross.

On the stroke of half-time though, it was Dundalk who scored again. Duffy curled in a well-struck free kick, and Pat Hoban rose highest amidst an abundance of bodies to score his first goal of the season.

The Lilywhites consequently went in at half-time with a commanding lead, despite having hardly got out of second gear.

ian-morris Ryan Byrne / INPHO Shels' manager Ian Morris. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Shels started the second half with greater intent. Straight away, there was a half-chance, but no one was in the right place to convert Kilduff’s dangerous deflected cross.

The home side continued to threaten thereafter and got the goal their rejuvenated performance deserved seven minutes after the break. A corner fell to Deegan on the edge of the area, and his superb shot found the top corner.

Shels couldn’t build on their early second-half momentum though. Wet and windy conditions made good football difficult and hampered the game as a spectacle, with stray passes commonplace from players normally more reliable on the ball.

After a brief flurry where the game was wide open, it settled down again as the half developed, and Dundalk regained a degree of control over proceedings.

They then went close to making it three in the 76th minute, as Boyle nodded a Duffy free kick just wide, with a set piece again looking like their best attacking outlet.

Moments later, another Duffy free kick from deep ricocheted kindly for Dane Massey, whose close-range shot was deflected out for a corner.

Down the other end, a Chris Shields slip allowed Jaze Kabia to break, but Sean Gannon took up an excellent covering position and prevented the pacy teenager from sprinting through on goal.

It was getting frantic now, and Gary Rogers had to be alert, running out of his goal swiftly and preventing Sheppard from getting a clean shot away after the experienced attacker latched on to a lofted through pass.

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Shels pushed for an equaliser, with Dundalk bringing on two defenders in the dying stages — Darragh Leahy and Brian Gartland — and the visitors held their nerve to maintain their 100% start to the season.

Despite the outcome, the newly promoted Dubliners can take encouragement from the performance, having demonstrated no shortage of effort and matched their opponents for long spells, but they ultimately lacked the composure in the final third to secure an all-important equaliser.

Shelbourne: 25. Jack Brady 14. Aidan Friel 2. Daniel O’Reilly 26. George Poynton (Quinn 70) 23. Luke Byrne 5. Alex O’Hanlon 7. Karl Sheppard 8. Gary Deegan (Brennan 74) 20. Aaron Dobbs (Farrell 58) 11. Jaze Kabia 9. Ciarán Kilduff.

Subs: 1. Colin McCabe 10. Ryan Brennan 19. Sean Quinn 4. Oscar Brennan 18. Dayle Rooney 3. Lorcan Fitzgerland 17. Shane Farrell

Dundalk: 1. Gary Rogers 2. Sean Gannon 4. Sean Hoare 44. Andy Boyle 14. Dane Massey 5. Chris Shields 6. Jordan Flores (Leahy 89) 10. Greg Sloggett 23. Cammy Smith (Kelly 58)  7. Michael Duffy (Gartland 85) 9. Pat Hoban

Subs: 20. Aaron McCarey 3. Brian Gartland 15. Darragh Leahy 18. Will Patching 21. Daniel Cleary 27. Daniel Kelly 28. Lido Lotefa

Referee: Damien MacGraith

Attendance: 3,010

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