Shelbourne finally find right gear at Bohemians
It may have taken a bit longer than expected, but there were signs yesterday that Dermot Keely finally has the engine of his Shelbourne side turning over nicely.
Salvaging the win in Dundalk seemed, finally, to restore some of the confidence that had been lost over the opening weeks of the season and in this game against Bohemians there were flashes through the second half of the sort of play we have come to expect of last year's nearly men over the last few seasons.
The win didn't come any easier than it had in Oriel Park. Again, Keely's side went a goal behind and again he shifted an extra man from defence into midfield in the hope of obtaining the desired result. And just as it had worked 10 days earlier, it all came off again.
Goals from Pat Fenlon and Dessie Baker earned the side three points and moved the team up to joint third in the table. A result which will send them to Cork for their next game with the closest thing they've had to a spring in their step since they wandered out for the second half of their European game in Tranmere.
Cork, of course, may present a tougher challenge than Bohemians did yesterday but then neither the performance of Shelbourne's neighbours in this game nor the style in which the home side overcame them should be underestimated. Turlough O'Connor's side have had problems of their own these past few weeks but you'd scarcely have thought it to look at them in the first half of what was a thoroughly entertaining contest.
True, the first really good chance of the game fell to Tony McCarthy, who would doubtless have preferred the ball to have been about six feet higher when it arrived in front of him, but Derek Swan had already had one shot deflected off the crossbar and it was he gave the visitors the lead with a marvellous run and curling shot towards the end of the half. And Fergal Harkin or Derek McGrath might well have added a second to put their team firmly in the driving seat before the home side began to get back on top of things.
McGrath's chance, a header from a wonderful cross by Graham Lawlor, was only kept out by the underside of the crossbar and marked the start of the game's closing half hour. At that stage, though Shelbourne's tactical switch - made five minutes earlier when Keelybrough on Baker and Pat Morley - looked to be paying off, O'Connor's men must have rather fancied their chances of hanging on for a third 1-0 victory over their closest rivals in the pair's last four games.
However, having looked most likely to score when McCarthy got forward prior to that, the arrival of Baker and Morley heralded a much more varied attacking approach from the hosts. The pair first made their presence felt when Morley headed down a Baker cross and Tony Sheridan forced a stunning reaction save from Michael Dempsey.
After Fenlon had driven home Sheridan's low cross a few minutes later to level the scores, Baker furthered his campaign for a return to the starting line up with a fine break down the right which was ended by Tony O'Connor's clumsy trip inside the box. The young Dubliner slotted home the penalty himself.
Brian Mooney's sending off, for the use of the elbow on Eoin Heery, dealt another blow to Bohemians' cause less than a minute later, and though the home side didn't press home their advantage too ruthlessly, everybody seemed to concede that the result was by now a foregone conclusion.
"It was a great second half performance," said Keely afterwards, "although I'm tired of having to gamble in order to win the game. I thought Dessie was especially good, I said to him beforehand to go out and show me, and that's what he did. You sort of have to play to suit him and when you have that extra man in midfield he's fantastic. I was very impressed, not just with him, but with all of the lads."
His opposite number, with the sound of the club's supporters again calling for his departure outside, said that he was happy with the performance if not the result.
"You'd have to be pleased with the effort we put in but we were punished for not taking our chances to finish it when we were already a goal in front. You have to take your chances, otherwise that's what happens and there's no point complaining about it."
Shelbourne: Gough; Costello, Campbell, McCarthy, D Geoghegan; Heery, Fenlon, Fitzgerald, Keddy; S Geoghegan, Sheridan. Subs: Doyle for Fitzgerald (half-time), D Baker and Morley for Campbell and S Geoghegan (55 mnins).
Bohemians: Dempsey; O'Hanlon, Maher, Mullen, O'Connor; Harkin, McGrath, Byrne, Mooney; Swan, Lawlor.
Referee: P McKeon (Dublin).