In a pulsating First Division play-off Drogheda United came out on top on spot-kicks after Shelbourne received two red cards.
(Sides draw 2-2 on aggregate and Drogheda progress 4-2 on penalties)
Conor McKenna reports from Tolka Park
SHELBOURNE BOWED OUT of the race for promotion, with the North Dublin side well and truly shooting themselves in the foot, playing with nine men for the majority of the game after referee Tomas Connolly correctly opting to send off two Shelbourne players in the opening half.
It took a penalty shoot-out to separate the sides, with the energy sapped from the Reds players come the outcome of spot-kicks, with Mark Doyle making himself the hero of the evening — finishing from close range to ensure Drogheda United progressed.
Owen Heary’s side will be sickened with the manner of the defeat, having come so close to eliminating Drogheda after playing over an hour with nine players.
Drogheda will care little though, as this result keeps them very much in the hunt for promotion, with Finn Harps up next for the Louth side on Friday night.
This game was an interesing encounter and was great viewing for the spectators in Tolka Park, as the early red card forced Shelbourne to sit back and defend in an attempt to preserve their one goal advantage. Their task was made all the more difficult when Sean Brennan put the visitors ahead on the night and levelled the aggregate score.
What will frustrate Heary all the more is that both red cards were avoidable. The first was shown to Reece McEnteer, who caught Mark Doyle with a late tackle and the referee opted to show the defender his second yellow card.
It looked to be a justified yellow card by the letter of the law, though with only 11 minutes played, it was always going to be an uphill battle for Shelbourne, especially when preserving a slender one goal lead.
Brennan opened the scoring in the 32nd minute, with an excellent finish after being set up by Chris Lyons.
Mark Doyle puts @DroghedaUnited through. Class! pic.twitter.com/rovATZXofr
The Dublin side were dealt what looked to be a killer blow with 37 minute played, when James English was sent off for a rash tackle on Jake Hyland, with the latter forced off with an injury as a result of the tackle.
Shelbourne opted to park the bus after the second dismissal and frustrated the visitors for large periods of the match. However a second goal looked inevitable and it wasn’t long forthcoming, with Lyons as good as ending the game as a contest.
It was a superb solo goal from the forward, who ended up tapping into an empty net, with the wild celebration well justified — it was going to very difficult for Shelbourne to come back from it.
Against all the odds, however, Shelbourne managed to peg a goal back and it came courtesy of substitute Adam Evans, who got on the end of John Ross Wilson’s delivery.
Shelbourne were superb despite being two players down throughout the match and, in truth, Drogheda did not create any real goal bound opportunity, with extra time needed to separate the teams.
United almost added a third goal in the first half of the additional period, with centre-back Kevin Farragher unable to convert from close range and at this stage Shelbourne were playing for penalties, with the aggregate score level at half-time in extra time.
Shelbourne had a golden opportunity to win the game with five minutes remaining — Adam Evans heading narrowly wide with only the goalkeeper to beat. But Evans was again denied by Paul Skinner shortly after.
The teams could still not be separated at the end of extra time, with a penalty shootout required to determine the winner. An efficient and professional job with the spot-kick’s ensured it will be Drogheda United who face Finn Harps in the next series of games — Mark Doyle converting the decisive spot-kick after misses from Evans and Lorcan Fitzgerald.
DROGHEDA UNITED: Paul Skinner; Colm Deasy, Kevin Farragher, Luke Gallagher, Conor Kane, Ciaran Kelly; Richie Purdy, Sean Brennan, Jake Hyland; Mark Doyle, Chris Lyons.
SHELBOURNE: Dean Delany; John Ross Wilson, Reece McEnteer, Derek Prendergast, Lorcan Fitzgerald; James English, Alan Byrne, Mark Hughes, Karl Moore; Paddy Kavanagh; Greg Moorehouse.
Referee: Tomas Connolly (Dublin)
The42 is on Instagram! Tap the button below on your phone to follow us!