Ritchie Baker was the provider tonight as Shelbourne beat a quite handy Wexford Youths side at Tolka Park. Baker first crossed for Paddy Madden’s debut goal for the Reds midway through the first half, before Gavin Doyle equalised for the Youths just before the break. However a Baker corner in the 70th minute set up Anto Flood to tap in the winner for Shels.
After a fairly dull start, devoid of any half-chances, let alone clear-cut ones, it took a Reds legend to create an opening. It was a nostalgic goal for Shels as Baker turned back the years in the 25th minute with a fantastic cross from the right wing. Madden rose highest and headed the ball into the far corner with Packie Holden unable to do anything about it in Wexford’s goal.
With that, Shels seemed to grow in confidence and began playing some decent football. However Wexford were level just before the break when some poor defending allowed Doyle to smash in a fine effort from eight yards out. The Youths were not much of an attacking force in the opening 45, so the goal was as surprising as it was disappointing, from the home side’s point of view.
Shels came out firing in the second half, looking to make amends as quick as possible. However despite three corners in the opening few minutes, it was the visitors who almost took the lead: Shane Dempsey ran on to David Miller’s ball and blasted a thirty-yard effort just over the bar.
Keely shook things up immediately, replacing Madden with Flood and Mark O’Brien with Derek Doyle. Shels also switched to a 4-3-3 formation. It didn’t seem to be working however, as Wexford began to threaten on the break. David Miller was enjoying plenty of space on the left and Wexford really should have made more of his many crosses throughout a dangerous 15 minute spell.
However, a Baker corner twenty minutes from time again provided the home support with something to cheer about. Shels seemed to abandon their rather awful training ground set-piece plan, which I won’t even go into, and David McAllister peeled off his marker to head across goal. Last season’s top scorer, Flood, was on hand to tap home.
Flood almost made it three with 11 minutes remaining when he burst through on goal from the halfway line, however Shane Dempsey did just enough to put him off and his shot went just wide.
Shels began to sit back as the clock wore down and almost paid the price in the 87th minute. John Flynn-O’Connor’s corner was met by David Breen six-yards out, however he couldn’t direct his header on target. Wexford continued to press but they couldn't break through the home side’s defence and Shels will be pleased to have started the season with a hard fought win.
Shelbourne: Dean Delaney; Kevin Doherty (Stephen Quigley 79), Damien Brennan, Alan Keely, David Crawley; Mark O’Brien (Derek Doyle 62), David McAllister, Davied Cassidy, Richie Baker; Peter Hynes, Paddy Madden (Anto Flood 62).
Subs not used: David McGill, Vinny Whelan.
Wexford Youths: Packie Holden; Paul Rossiter, Tim McGrath, David Breen, Johnny Flynn-O’Connor; Anto Russell (Jimmy Keohane 80), Patsy Malone, Shane Dempsey (Martin Kelly 64), Peter White; Gavin Doyle, David Miller (Conor Sinnott 80).
Subs not used: Gareth McCurtain, Warren Broaders.
Referee: Neil Doyle.
Man of the match: David McAllister (Shelbourne) – No real standout player but the midfielder did well all game, rarely losing possession.