Shels defeat Harps in Tolka thriller

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Shelbourne fans in Tolka Park

Shelbourne came away from a dramatic affair at Tolka Park with all three points after a 3-2 win against promotion rivals Finn Harps. The game was topsy turvy and had the fans out of their seats on more than one occasion, mostly due to the actions of the referee.

The home side started brightly in the game with some well placed passes. However, that was to be the extent of the good start for Shelbourne as what followed turned into a nightmare that manager, Kevin Doherty didn’t envisage for his side. The visitors won a corner on the 10th minute of the game and the result was the ball landing in the back of Shelbourne’s net. Harp’s defender Damien McNulty lept into the air and connected his head to the ball and powered it past Shel’s keeper, Greg Murray and into the top left hand corner of the net.

Shelbourne then tried to hit back in search of a quick response to the early goal. Unfortunately, three minutes later, forward, Mark Sanford went in with a high boot and connected with arm of Finn Harps keeper Ciaran Gallagher in the box. The referee went straight over to the Shels man and produced a red card. The home support voiced their displeasure at the decision. They had reason to complain as it looked like an honest effort to win the ball and not a deliberate attempt to injure the keeper.

The game began to heat up and tempers flared at times. The referee pulled out the cards yet again. All yellow this time. Two for Shelbourne and one for Finn Harps. Matt Crossan received a yellow card for Finn Harps for a high boot on Jake Donnelly. The home fans waited to see if the referee disciplined him like Sandford. Unfortunately for them, he didn’t see the challenge being as poor like the foul earlier in the game.

Then lady luck shone down on Shels for the first time in the game. A long ball was looking destined for Adam O’Connor, who had pushed forward. However, Keith Cowan barged into the back of the defender. There was a delayed reaction by the referee but he signaled to the spot. Up stepped fan favourite, Philly Hughes. The forward made no mistake as he drilled his effort straight down the middle.

That luck disappeared after the break. Finn Harps midfielder, Tony McNamee, looked to have strayed offside. The Shels players froze as the Harps’ man flicked the ball over Murray and it landed right in the back of the net. The entire Shelbourne bench poured onto the pitch as they couldn’t understand how the effort stood.

However, like the topsy turvy game this turned out to be. Shels were given the chance to make the game all square again with another penalty. The ball was looking destined for Hughes and again the Harps defence went in hard. Defender, Keith Cowan barged into Hughes’ back and sent the forward tumbling over. The referee pointed straight the spot and then marched straight to Cowan to brandish another red card. Again, another harsh decision by the referee. Hughes stepped up once again and blasted the ball to the left. Gallagher got a touch on the ball but not enough to keep it out.

From the restart, Shels pushed to get ahead for the first time in the game and they didn’t disappoint the home support. Hughes picked up a nice ball just outside the area and dribbled his way into the box around the keeper and blasted the ball into the net. A hat-trick for the cult hero.

Hughes nearly added his fourth with a sublime effort. From 40 yards out on the right hand side of the pitch, Hughes took a chance as he saw the keeper off his line. His effort crossed box and crashed off the corner of left hand upright and bounced away. The Shelbourne dugout and the fans believed the effort crossed the goal line but it was not given.

The tempo of the game went up a notch or two after Shelbourne went ahead but there was not much in terms of action after that, apart from a few half chances.

Hero

The hero of the game was undoubtedly Shelbourne’s Philly Hughes. The veteran striker’s performance never dipped during the 77 minutes he was on the pitch. He definitely had the belief that the game could be turned around and he didn’t stop after his hat-trick was complete.

Zero

Referee, Andrew Mullally and his two assistants had an extremely poor game. They missed a lot of the action off the ball and both the red cards, while adding drama to the proceedings, were completely unnecessary.

The Crowd Pleaser

One could argue, which was the the best moment of the night for the crowd. The third goal for the home side had the Shelbourne fans on the their feet. Nobody in Tolka Park expected to witness Shelbourne win after going a goal and man down in the first quarter of the game. However, Hughes had the crowd in the palm of his hand after he wheeled away from scoring what was the winning goal.

What Happens Next?

The win means Shelbourne now move up to fourth place, three points ahead of fifth place Athlone Town, who have a game in hand. They are also now six point behind leaders Wexford Youths, but Shels have played a game more. Shelbourne will play away next to Cabinteely in a fortnight. In the meantime, they will play a friendly against Hearts on Saturday week in Tolka Park.

Finn Harps will also play Cabinteely but at home next Friday night. They are in second place, just two points behind leaders Wexford Youths.

SHELBOURNE: Murray, O’Connor (C), Osam, R.Robinson, Heaney, J.Donnelly (Andrews 90′), McGlade, Walsh, Hughes (English 77′), Sandford, Earley (Kehoe 85′)

Substitutes: E.Donnelly, O’Sullivan, Keely, A.Robinson
Goals: Hughes (41′, 55′, 58′)
Yellow Cards: Walsh (26′), Earley (30′), Heaney (60′)
Red Cards: Sandford (14′)

FINN HARPS: Gallagher, McNulty, Coll, Cowan, P.Mailey (Friel 68′), Crossan (McMonagle 45′), McNamee, Foy (J..Mailey 84′), Tagbo, McHugh (C), Harkin

Substitutes: McCarron, McMenimen, Toland
Goals: McNulty (11′), McNamee (46′)
Yellow Cards: Crossan (21′), McNulty (76′)
Red Cards: Cowan (52′)

Referee: Andrew Mullally

Attendance: 614

Scotland break Irish hearts in Dublin

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Robbie Brady

The tame boos from the Irish fans were sounded out by the deafening cheers of the Scottish contingent at the final whistle at the Aviva Stadium as the visitors put a huge dent into Republic of Ireland’s hopes of qualifying for next summer’s European Championship in France. After dominating the first half, a lapse in concentration handed a priceless draw and point to Scotland in Group D.

The first half was fast paced with both teams starting brightly. The Irish were the first to have a crack at goal, after just two minutes, with Jeff Hendrick’s cross attempt collected by David Marshall.

The Scots followed two minutes later with their first effort. Stoke defender, Marc Wilson mistimed his pass to Jeff Hendrick and the ball was picked up by James Morrison. The Scottish midfielder worked his way up the pitch before passing to Steven Naismith. The Everton man’s attempt went across the box and ultimately wide.

The Scot’s best effort in the first half came from Steven Fletcher after just 10 minutes. The striker had the ball from about 20 yards out and hit it with some power that it forced Republic of Ireland keeper, Shay Given to stretch high and use the tips of his fingers to guide the ball over the crossbar.

Tempers flared at times. The game was hardly 10 minutes old, when James McCarthy went in hard on Scotland captain, Scott Brown. The latter was unimpressed by the younger midfielder’s antics and he wasn’t shy to express those feelings. Nonetheless, McCarthy escaped any punishment from the referee and was let off with a warning.

Glenn Whelan followed soon after. However, this time the yellow card was shown by the referee. The Stoke man caught Fletcher with a late standing tackle. McCarthy was again involved in a fracas and was punished accordingly, with a yellow card, after throwing an elbow into the face of Russell Martin. The Scottish defender was left with a cut on the bridge of his nose.

Then came the moment Irish fans were hoping for. After Marshall tipped over a Daryl Murphy header, Robbie Brady swung in the resulting corner. Again it met the head of Murphy. This time his effort landed straight at Marshall who could only parry the effort. The ball landed right at the feet of Jon Walters. The Irish forward only had to tap the ball into the net. He precisely did so and put the Boys in Green ahead just before the break.

The lead wasn’t to last long though. Scotland equalised just after the restart. Shaun Maloney played a lovely one-two with half time substitute Ikechi Anya in the box. Maloney then attempted to the curl the ball to the bottom left of the goal. The ball deflected off Irish captain John O’Shea and sailed past Given. The goal stunned the home fans as they had seen their team throw away a deserved lead.

The game then went full speed as both teams looked for the winner. The Scottish seemed to hold on the ball that bit better than the Irish. They constantly pushed forward at every opportunity that was afforded to them.

The Irish on the other hand, failed to use their opportunities. Robbie Brady, in particular, was poor with his crosses. The Hull City man hit some of them high and wide, especially at points in the game when the team needed balls delivered accurately into the box.

Ireland had a good opportunity on the 75th minute when substitute Robbie Keane got the ball and dummied the Scottish defence, leaving space open to fire a shot. He put a lot of power and accuracy behind the effort. Unfortunately, the ball went straight into the hands of Marshall.

Another Republic of Ireland substitute, James McClean also had a good chance to put the Irish ahead again, from a corner. The Derry man, worked to get the space and put himself high to meet Brady’s ball. However, while the effort connected, the ball went wide off the upright.

McClean was also part of one of the last significant incidents of the game. The Wigan Athletic midfielder, unimpressed with a decision given against his side, got into a war of words with Steven Naismith. It appeared as if McClean grazed his head against Naismith’s. The referee came over to separate the two and gave a yellow card to each player for their troubles.

Speaking after the game, Republic of Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill expressed his disappointed with conceding the equaliser to Scotland. However, he stressed that his side are still in with a chance of qualifying for next summer’s tournament in France.

“I thought we were very dominant in the first half. We deserved to be in front. We absolutely fell asleep for the [equalising] goal even though it was going miles wide. Just after half time, we should have closed it down on three different occasions. I thought Scotland got a big lift from that. I thought their best spell was after that, for 10 minutes. I thought we pulled ourselves round and I thought we were going to win it in the end. We didn’t and I am obviously disappointed not to have won,” said O’Neill.

The manager also looked back on his 18 months in charge and is happy with how things have been going for the Boys in Green. “There are a number of players coming through, which, I’m obviously delighted with. However, let us see where we are at the end of the campaign,” O’Neill concluded.

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan, lamented his side’s second half performance, which helped them secure a point in Dublin.

“For all you say about systems, we couldn’t get ours working. Whether it’s through Ireland pressing, the physical strength. They are a big team. Maybe that stopped us or maybe it was our lack of match fitness. So, we took a look at it at half time and we moved a couple of people about. We never had a chance to see if our system worked. All I know is, a very good player [Maloney] scored a wonderful goal again. A very good player has got us a point,” said the Scottish manager.

Strachan was also impressed by the intensity of match considering it was at the end of the season. He also wouldn’t comment on the group standing saying that “you never know what the points are going to be to get you to qualify.” The Scottish manager, to the amusement of the Irish press, congratulated the referee on his performance and said he was “terrific the whole game” and he helped add intensity to the game.

The Republic of Ireland now have a real fight on their hands to make the Euro finals next summer. They currently sit in fourth place, three points behind today’s visitors. They will travel to Gibraltar next, in early September, followed by a home fixture against Georgia.

Scotland, on the other hand, will face Georgia away, followed by a home fixture in Hampden Park against World champions, Germany, 3 days later. They now sit second in Group D, a point ahead of Germany, who have a game in hand against Gibraltar.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Given, Coleman, Wilson, O’Shea (C), Brady, Hendrick, Whelan (McClean 67′), McCarthy, Hoolahan (Keane 73′) , Walters, Murphy (Long 80′)

Substitutes: Forde, Westwood, Keogh, McGeady, Meyler, Christie, Ward, Quinn, McGoldrick

Goals: Walters (38′)
Yellow Cards: Whelan (19′), McCarthy (30′), McClean (88′)

SCOTLAND: Marshall, Hutton, Martin, Mulgrew, Forsyth, Ritchie (Anya 45′), Brown (C) (McArthur 84′), Morrison, Naismith (Berra 91′), Maloney, S.Fletcher

Substitutes: Gordon, Samson, Whittaker, D.Fletcher, Adam, Greer, Robertson, Forrest, Griffiths

Goals: O’Shea (OG 46′)
Yellow Cards: Naismith (88′)

Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)

After 20 years in the making – it’s a dull draw at Aviva Stadium

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Republic of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland welcomed their visitors, England, to a warm and sunny Dublin for the first time in 20 years. There was a lot of talk in the build up to this fixture regarding the last time the English supporters were in town. Fortunately, the atmosphere this time around in the stands was less volatile. The same could be said on the pitch, as both teams played out a dull scoreless draw that failed to thrill those in attendance at the Aviva Stadium.

The first half was a pretty drab affair but the Boys in Green were the first to go on the attack. Straight from the kick-off the Irish worked the ball into the box, with striker, David McGoldrick having an effort on goal deflected wide by an English defender. The game did not pick up again until the second quarter when Aiden McGeady whipped in a cross from the edge of the box towards McGoldrick, who just couldn’t connect his head to the ball correctly.

It was the Irish who dominated the second quarter of the game, with a few clear-cut chances to put them ahead. Daryl Murphy had two great chances to get on the score sheet. His first, after working his way into the box, he shot low and hard but his effort sailed past, not only England ‘keeper, Joe Hart, but also past the far upright. The second chance came from a Robbie Brady free kick. The whip in came in perfectly for the Ipswich Town striker but he couldn’t connect to it properly and his attempt went wide, not troubling the English defence.

England also had a few chances on goal. Their best effort coming just before half time as Adam Lallana worked his way to the edge of the box. His long-range effort just went over a stretching Kieren Westwood and the crossbar.

The game came to life in the second half and it was England who had the first real attempt at goal. A mistake by defender Marc Wilson gifted Jordan Henderson the ball. The midfielder then laid it off to Wayne Rooney. However, the captain couldn’t get the proper first touch and balled rolled toward a relieved Westwood. A lucky escape for the Irish.

There were numerous chances for both teams throughout the half. Brady troubled Hart with a free kick from the edge of the box. The Manchester City ‘keeper wasn’t able to collect the ball. Instead, it bounced off his chest and out for an Irish corner. Rooney also had a half chance with a free kick on the edge of the area. The captain’s effort, however, was caught by Westwood.

England’s best effort was left to substitute, Andros Townsend. The Spurs man cracked the ball with force just outside of the area. His shot troubled substitute keeper Shay Given, who could only parry the effort.

Harry Arter, making his senior international debut as a substitute, also had a chance on goal. After working the ball forward, the midfielder tried an effort on goal rather then lay the ball to a teammate. His effort didn’t trouble Hart as it flew across the box and past the goal.

The game fizzled out towards the end, apart from a few lame efforts from Ross Barkley, which didn’t trouble the Irish defence. It was to end as yet another draw between these sides, the eighth in total.

Speaking after the game, Republic of Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill said the game was good preparation ahead of next week’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland. “It was exactly what we needed. I thought in the last fifteen minutes we were pretty tired looking. We started off brightly in the game and maybe we could have scored a couple of goals. We certainly had a couple of decent chances. Overall, it was good for us and from a physical viewpoint, it couldn’t have been better timed,” said the Irish manager.

O’Neill also suggested the game allowed him to experiment and bring in new faces. “I think that what you do, is you ask the players to give you some problems to try and solve between now and Saturday. Some new faces as well, with Daryl Murphy coming in and eventually, Harry Arter getting on the field of play. So just overall, players to go and try and perform because it is their last opportunity to do so. I think it was a very decent response,” said O’Neill.

Regarding his thoughts on next week’s starting eleven against Scotland, the manager refused to give any details on who might start. Talking about next week’s fixture, O’Neill said, “I will see how the player’s came out of the game physically and certainly during the course of the week we will try and step up training. I was hoping at one stage that I could have got Wes Hoolahan on the field. He has played a number of games and he came late into the squad because he was getting some tests done. While, I’m sure it would have been nice for him to play the last twenty odd minutes, we had run out of substitutes.”

England manager, Roy Hodgson, shared O’Neill’s sentiments that the game was a warm up ahead of the next week’s qualifiers. “I think it was a game both teams needed after the season ending for most of them a good couple of weeks ago or in some cases three weeks ago,” said the England manager.

Hodgson was delighted that the match passed off without incident and that. He also suggested that the Irish will be the happier of the two teams with the result. “The positives for me, were harder to find I think, than they would have been for Martin. Two obvious positives were, the spirit in which the game was played. Competitive, I think both teams were trying to win and the atmosphere in the stadium and the behaviour of the sets of fans was a remarkable positive because it hasn’t always been that way,” said Hodgson.

Asked for a prediction for next week’s match between Republic of Ireland and Scotland, the English manager said, “I think it is going to be a really ding-dong battle next week. I think it is going to be very competitive, very exciting. Obviously, more exciting than today’s game because today’s game was only a friendly. In the game next Saturday, every time the ball is bouncing in your box or the Scottish box, Martin and his staff and Gordon and his staff are going to be really excited, as will the fans. The only prediction I can safely make is that it will be a very, very tight game, very fiercely contested and I don’t expect it to be a 5-4. I expect it more to be a 1-0 or a 2-1.”

The Republic of Ireland will take some positives looking ahead to a crucial Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland next Saturday as they defended well against an undefeated side in qualifiers, who have scored fifteen goals in five games. John O’Shea is the only injury doubt for the Boys in Green. The Sunderland defender has a problem with his calf but O’Neill is hopeful that he can shake it off in time for next week’s game.

Meanwhile, England will be hoping to continue their undefeated streak in Group E of Euro 2016 qualifiers, as they face second placed Slovenia, away, next Sunday.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Westwood (Given 60′), Wilson, Coleman, O’Shea (C) (McShane 71′), McCarthy (McClean 45′), Hendrick, Whelan (Arter 63′), McGeady, Brady, Murphy (Walters 55′), McGoldrick (Long 45′)

Substitutes: Forde, Randolph, Keogh, Christie, Pearce, Ward, Quinn, Meyler, Hoolahan

ENGLAND: Hart, Jones, Bertrand, Henderson, Cahill (Jagielka 73′), Smalling, Wilshere (Barkley 65′), Milner, Sterling (Townsend 65′), Rooney (C) (Vardy 73′), Lallana (Walcott 82′)

Substitutes: Green, Heaton, Gibbs, Delph, Austin, Cleverley, Clyne

Referee: Arnold Hunter (Northern Ireland)