Shelbourne were defeated by Dundalk in their first home game back in the Premier Division as goals from Andy Boyle and Patrick Hoban gave the champions a 2-1 win at Tolka Park.
It was clear from the off that this occasion was one the Shelbourne fans had craved for so long and despite the weather they were in full voice throughout this fascinating encounter.
On the pitch the home side looked settled early, Ciaran Kilduff causing some problems for the centre-half pairing of Andy Boyle and Sean Hoare in the opening few minutes.
It wasn’t long though before the champions began to find their stride in spite of the conditions with Michael Duffy showing glimpses of the quality all at Tolka know he possess.
The opening 15 minutes lacked any clear cut chances from either side but it was Dundalk who undoubtedly had the better of the possession as they looked to impose their game on Ian Morris’ men.
The wind and rain rattled the stands throughout the opening 45 but even in the difficult conditions it was a moment of quality from the away side which brought about the evening’s opener.
Duffy started and ended a free flowing Dundalk move from just inside his own half, winning a corner-kick.
The 25-year-old then delivered a sweeping ball into the area which was well flicked on by Hoare into the path of Boyle who couldn’t miss from two yards out against his former club to give the Lilywhites what, in truth, was a deserved lead.
For the next fifteen minutes Shels found it tough, the duo of Duffy and Dane Massey finding considerable joy down the home side’s right, with the former delivering a rasping shot just minutes later which flew over Jack Brady’s goal.
They did have a chance to level proceedings however in the 37th minute as a brilliant ball from the left by Alex O’Hanlon evaded a free Kilduff by a matter of inches.
As is the mark of champions however, Dundalk made sure Shelbourne paid for their missed chance and once again it came from a set-piece as Duffy whipped a free-kick from the left straight onto the head of Hoban who powered the ball past Brady.
All told the first half was rather comfortable for the away side, but it was clear early that the second period wouldn’t follow the same pattern.
Shelbourne looked far more confident and assured on the ball in the opening exchanges of the second 45 with Kilduff sending a deflected cross into the area and a brief goalmouth scramble following just afterwards.
Morris’ men’s pressure began to tell and they grabbed a goal back in stylish fashion as the ball fell to Gary Deegan on the edge of the box and his brilliant volley flew off the post and past the onlooking Gary Rodgers in the Dundalk goal.
After that, the game became stretched as Shels pushed for the equaliser, a mix-up in the Dundalk box between Rodgers and Hoare almost leading to Kilduff sneaking in only for the referee to award a free out.
The home side pushed but were constantly reminded of the visitors’ threat, with Hoare having two wonderful chances to put the game to bed, the first a header flying just over and the second an effort well blocked by the Shels defence.
The final ten minutes were as frantic as expected at Tolka, Karl Sheppard finding himself through on goal after a ball over the top only for Rodgers to excellently block his effort.
Shelbourne pushed and pushed but the goal they craved never came a Morris’ side tasted defeat in their first home game back in the Premier Division.