Some early attacks by both sides amounted to nothing, and the game was very much in the balance until the Shelbourne midfield of David McAllister, Derek Doyle and Brothers Mark and Colin O’Brien began to dominate possession. The hard work put in by this midfield quartet paid off in the 10th minute, when right back David McGill scored with a low shot from distance.
Limerick looked helpless to turn back the tide of Shels attacks for much of the first half. Only in the final 15 minutes of the half did the Shannonsiders create some decent chances. Stephen O’Flynn began what was to be a memorable evening for him by scoring an absolute cracker of a goal from 30 yards out in the 39th minute.
Five minutes later, Stephen O’Flynn struck again to give Limerick the lead going in to half time. A counter attack released the ex-Galway United and Derry City striker, who duly put the ball past Shels ‘keeper Dean Delaney.
Shelbourne made two substitutions at half time, bringing on Stephen Quigley for Colin O’Brien and David Crawley for Robbie Hedderman. Shels started the half brightly, moving further into the Limerick half with every attack. Double goalscorer Stephen O’Flynn was booked after a clumsy challenge on Michael Synott as the Dundalk loanee was attempting to clear the ball. Soon after, Shelbourne captain Damien Brennan was booked for dissent and Michael Synott was booked for an awkward sliding tackle on Martin Deady.
The Reds tried to alter things by bringing on last season’s top scorer Anto Flood for Derek Doyle in the 60th minute, and Flood had an almost immediate impact. Flood brought plenty of energy and skill to the Shels forward line, which combined well with the sterling efforts of Tony Griffiths and Peter Hynes. The substitute scored his 10th league goal of the season in the 74th minute to level for Shelbourne, striking home after Limerick goalkeeper Dave Ryan could only parry a shot by Tony Griffiths.
The momentum was certainly with Shelbourne after their equaliser and Shels’ top scorer this season David McAllister turned provider, passing expertly past John Boyle to allow Peter Hynes to apply the finish. With just ten minutes left, the Dublin side looked good for their lead. Bobby Tier was booked soon after the goal for a foul on Mark O’Brien.
Stephen O’Flynn, however, had other ideas. In the 90th minute, a long ball directly from the Limerick defence seemed to catch Shels unaware and O’Flynn was able to complete his hat trick with a cool finish.
Three minutes remained for Shelbourne to snatch the win from Limerick, and after he went in too close on the goalkeeper for the referee’s liking in one Shels attack, Anto Flood was sent off with just seconds remaining.
A draw seemed a fair result in a very entertaining match in which both sides had their chances to win. Shelbourne will now be even more anxious to win next week against Mervue United, while Limerick fans must be pleased with a draw away to the league leaders.
Shelbourne: Delaney; Brennan, Hedderman (Crawley 45), McGill, Synott; Doyle (Flood 60), McAllister, M. O’Brien, C. O’Brien (Quigley 45); Griffiths, Hynes Subs not used: Whelan, Scully
Limerick: Ryan; Boyle, Deady, Molan, Roche; Hughes, Kavanagh (O’Callaghan 76), Tier (McGrath 83), Tracey; O’Flynn, Tierney (Kelleher 83) Subs not used: Collopy, Hughes
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Hard to single one player out. Dave McAllister, Mark O’Brien and Tony Griffiths all played well for Shels, as did Bobby Tier and John Tierney for Limerick. It is, however, hard to look past the hat-trick hero Stephen O’Flynn for man of the match. O’Flynn constantly looked a threat and worked hard for his three goals.
Referee: Sean Grant