WLOI Report: Shelbourne 1 - 0 Galway United

Tolka Park

Tolka Park Credit: None

Shelbourne burned red hot and clinched a crucial three points in the SSE Airtricity Women’s Premier Division title race at Tolka as Galway United dropped to third, losing 1-0 to the Drumcondra debonairs.

The face-off between the table toppers and a United side hot on their heels was never going to be the title decider from a numbers perspective, but from a psychological viewpoint, it meant everything.

Shels edged their pursuers in the top-of-the-table clash and inflicted a third-degree poker burn that continued to sizzle on the weary backs of the visitors as they regrouped post-final whistle.

United, now only five points adrift of the league leaders with a game in hand, felt what was their second consecutive league loss as the women in green and gold began their postmortem post-final whistle - Mark McCabe’s 90s dance hit ‘Maniac’ a cruel contrast to their slumped postures.

Phil Trill’s side busted a gut and fell short by mere inches following a valiant effort against a Shelbourne side that glowed red hot off the back of five league wins in what was a 50/50 contest.

In the first 45 minutes, Shelbourne darted in arrows that United did well to deflect. Jessica Berlin and her backline charger Jamie Erickson were decisive as Jemma Quinn hunted at the lip of the box and Noelle Murray danced a jig ahead of Eve Dossen, who did well to prevent the goal slinger from firing on all cylinders.

“Meet the challenge!” Eoin Wearen instructed as both sides sought to establish the upper hand.

Therese Kinnevey marshalled confidently at the back post and neutralised Eabha O’Mahony’s whips before delivering inviting balls of her own at the other end, much to her manager's delight. “Yes Therese!” Trill boomed as the number fourteen fired another for Shels' goal minder Amanda McQuillan to track mid-flight.

Lucy O’Rourke and Maggie Pierce were in sync on the right lane as the Tolka tacticians traversed the turf, and the crowd urged their eleven on.

Yet despite Shels' press, it was United who had the clearer chances on goal in the first—their attempts launched from outside the box as the red shirts closed them down in the final third—Pearl Slattery a mere blur as the skipper cleared from deep inside the D amidst a sea of red and green.

“This is too easy for them, girls!” a fan in the Richmond Road Stand shouted as Julie-Ann Russell dribbled unchallenged up the centre of the park and took a pot shot on goal before Lynsey McKey skied an attempt over the crossbar in the 20th.

In the 34th, Berlin and Quinn clashed as the Shels attacker sought to break the deadlock before J.Slattery hoofed a tame effort on goal.

Aislinn Meaney shined once again on the right lane and was closely followed by Keeva Keenan, who put in another formidable shift for the Reds.

At half-time, the score was 0-0, yet you got the sense that Shels could strike a match and set Tolka ablaze in an instant.

Both sides flew straight out the gate on the restart.

Aoibheann Costello almost smoked the home side with a weighted effort that forced the Shels goal minder to fingertip the ball over the crossbar.

Christie Gray’s introduction at halftime made all the difference for Wearen’s outfit as the roving winger added an electric charge to Shel’s attack.

The Canadian native tore down the right lane and linked up with Roma McLaughlin in the 52nd—the 26-year-old placed the ball with precision point accuracy into the bottom right of Berlin’s corner as the Main Stand erupted in joy.

The music continued to blast as the game tipped off and “Shelbourne, Shelbourne, Shelbourne” echoed around the 452 in attendance.

Costello motored for United up and down the left lane in a tiring effort to both attack and defend, keeping one eye on Gray as the speedster continued to dazzle for Shels.

Erickson and Isabella Beletic were forced to dole out their A game to halt her link-up play with Quinn as Shels hunted for a second.

The wind then changed in the final twenty.

United regrouped and pushed for the equaliser - the home fans' nails bitten down to their quick.

“Stay with your player!!” Wearen instructed as Trill’s eleven searched hungrily for the leveller.

Russell dropped deep inside the D as she chased a threaded ball from J.Slattery, but calls for a penalty against her opposite namesake were waved away.

Tolka breathed a sigh of relief yet the fire that Shels brought in attack continued to wane.

The heat in the game turned up a notch as the clock ticked towards ninety and O’Mahony and Kinnevey clashed heads.

Mia Dodd received an unfortunate clatter of the ball as she tore towards Berlin, whose powerful clearance smacked the youngster dead square on the nose.

The number 17 was forced off the pitch as she attempted to stop the flow of claret - smiling nonetheless.

Substitute Rolake Olusola provided real teeth in United’s attack in the final ten, yet Slattery and Keenan tempered any scrambles and cleared.

J.Slattery tried her luck from distance, but the ball sailed harmlessly over the top right corner.

At the other end, Alex Kavanagh, who once again covered every blade of grass for the Shelbourne crest, volleyed a shot that just grazed Berlin’s wood on the 81st.

Amanda Smith was almost the super sub for United in the dying embers of battle, but the momentum in her turn just threw the Canadian off balance, and she failed to dig the ball out of her feet for a clear shot at goal.

“Oh Jesus!” a concerned Shels fan exclaimed less than sixty seconds later as Russell rifled a rocket on goal—McQuillan’s save the rescue remedy she needed.

Despite a courageous effort, the four minutes of injury time awarded were not enough for United to salvage a crucial point.

Shelbourne now stretch their lead at the top of the table to five ahead of Galway, two points clear of Athlone Town.

Shelbourne W: Amanda McQuillan; Jessica Gargan, Keeva Keenan, Pearl Slattery; Hannah Healy (Roma McLaughlin 39), Alex Kavanagh, Noelle Murray (Rachel Graham 80), Eabha O'Mahony (Leah F Doyle 79), Lucy O'Rourke (Christie Gray 46), Maggie Pierce; Jemma Quinn (Mia Dodd 61).
Subs not used: Caoimhe Magee, Nia Hannon, Nadine Clare, Katie McCarn.
Booked: Pearl Slattery (30), Alex Kavanagh (62), Roma McLaughlin (87)..

Galway United Women: Jessica Berlin; Aoibheann Costello, Eve Dossen, Jamie Erickson, Therese Kinnevey; Isabella Beletic, Amy Madden (Amanda Smith 67), Lynsey McKey (Rola Olusola 72), Julie-Ann Russell, Jenna Slattery; Aislinn Meaney.
Subs not used: Kaylee Hammer, Lucy-Jayne Grant, Mary Tyrrell, Roisin Jacob, Heather Loomes, Jodie Griffin, Emily Kavanaugh.
Booked: Jenna Slattery (66).