Late strike foils shels
AFTER a five-year stay in the hell that is Division One football, Shelbourne fans are glad that top-flight football is back at Tolka Park at last.
But the Reds can only wish that their first game back in the Premier Division could have ended a few seconds earlier, as Shels were denied what would have been a momentous win over Sligo Rovers last night. Jason McGuinness nicked a 1-1 draw for Sligo with the last kick of the ball, in the fourth minute of injury time, after veteran striker Philip Hughes had given Shels a first-half lead.
Disappointment then for Shels to be denied the three points -- and possible revenge for last season's FAI Cup final loss to Sligo -- but having endured a stodgy diet of First Division football for so long, the main thing is that the Reds are back.
"It's disappointing to concede a goal in the manner that we did but overall our performance was very good, against a side who most of you in the media have tipped to challenge for or win the league," said Shels boss Alan Mathews.
"It's disappointing that we led for so long and couldn't see it out, but we were playing a good side and we acquitted ourselves well. On another night -- and had we kept the ball a bit better in the final third -- we might have been able to get the second goal.
"We're disappointed we didn't win but we are off the mark for the season and we'll take more positives than negatives from that last night," added Mathews, who was delighted with the contribution of goalscorer Hughes.
The veteran was making his debut in LOI football with St Francis back in 2000, when many of the players in the league were still in school, and he showed that he still has something to offer. "It was a brilliant strike for the goal and it's great, for Philly and for us, that he's off the mark so early," said Mathews.
Sligo, playing under new boss Ian Baraclough for the first time, started brightly with John Dillon testing Shels keeper Dean Delaney in the first minute, while a brilliant move by Romauld Boco set up a chance for Mark Quigley on the half-hour mark, Quigley's header saved by Delaney.
But Sligo's world collapsed in a short spell just before the half-time whistle. Shels were awarded a free-kick on 42 minutes after a foul by Danny Ventre on Pat Kavanagh. David Cassidy and Lorcan Fitzgerald stepped over the dead ball, leaving it for Philip Hughes to fire past Gary Rogers, and in first-half injury time Sligo had striker Quigley sent off, a straight red card for a foul on Kavanagh.
Rovers came out for the second half with the words of new manager Baraclough ringing in their ears, and they were almost level within seconds of the restart as Gavin Peers saw his header come off the post. Jason McGuinness later flashed a header wide, while Benin international Boco came close with a shot on 71 minutes.
Sligo's frustration was growing and it seemed like it was a lost cause, but deep into injury time former Bohemians man McGuinness got his head to a Ross Gaynor corner and nicked the equaliser.