Conan Byrne 72' -
Byrne turned in substitute Chris Mulhall’s cross in the 72nd minute and although there was time for the Town to get something out of the game they just came up short.
This was always going to be a tricky game for both sides and in recent meetings very little has separated them. In fact on their last two visits to Tolka the Town have come away with something – 2009 winning 5-4 and last season grabbing a dramatic last minute equaliser.
Both managers made changes to their sides for this the first game of the second series of games. Byrne started for Shels in place of the injured Brendan McGill. While the Town had three changes to the team that started in Cork two weeks ago; Cathal Brady, Paddy Collins and Don Cowan came into the side in place of Niall O'Reilly (suspended), Chris Deans and Lee Roche.
Byrne was very much Shelbourne’s playmaker in the opening exchanges of the game and the Town found it hard to contain him. Three minutes had barely elapsed when he had Shels’ first chance on goal. David Cassidy’s diagonal ball found Byrne but he dragged his shot wide.
Four minutes later and Byrne had another chance this time he forced a good save out of Longford keeper Paul Hunt.
It was all Shelbourne in the opening quarter as the visitors found it hard to get any rhythm going. In the 17th minute the Town had their first effort on goal. Jack Morley whipped in the first corner of the game but Austin Skelly headed over.
Another Skelly header in the 24th minute was easily gathered by Shels keeper Dean Delany. Delany was called into action twice in quick succession one minute later. First Don Cowan brought a good save out of the netminder. The loose ball came back out to Cowan and he laid it off for Mark Salmon who really should’ve done better with his effort and Delany was able to deny the Town again.
Lots of football was played in the opening half of the game but chances were at a premium. Shels began to pile on the pressure as half-time approached but failed to create anything of note. The female assistant referee Michelle O’Neill didn’t endear herself to many in the crowd when she gave a dodgy offside decision against Shels. In the first half she made a few mistakes with throw-ins for both sides which referee Sean Grant had to over-rule.
The Town started the second half a lot better than they had the first and two minutes in were unlucky not to break the deadlock. Morley played the ball into Cowan who slotted the ball past the onrushing Delany but unfortunately for the striker his effort just went wide.
Minutes later the striker was on the receiving end of a rather tight offside call by the female assistant. There was then a lull in the game as neither side could get a real grip on proceedings. Shels decided to ring the changes and substitution Chris Mulhall made a difference when he came on in the 59th minute.
Three minutes after his introduction Mulhall brought a fantastic save out of Paul Hunt. The same player turned provider for the game’s only goal in the 72nd minute; Conan Byrne turning in Mulhall’s cross.
Two minutes from time Byrne had a chance to wrap up the points but he put his effort wide when it was easier to score. As the clock ticked into additional time the Town tried to grab a late equaliser and had the chance right on the stroke of full-time. Keith Gillespie’s free-kick from the right met the head of Longford defender Des Hope but he headed over. There wasn’t going to be a repeat of last season’s heroics for the Midlanders at the Drumcondra venue.
Shelbourne: Dean Delaney, Gareth Matthews, Andy Boyle, Ian Ryan, Lorcan Fitzgerald, Conan Byrne, David McGill (Kevin Dawson 65), David Cassidy, Barry Clancy (Chris Mulhall 59), Philip Hughes (Ray Scully 83), Karl Bermingham.
Subs not used: John Sullivan, Colm James, Sean Byrne, Paul Skinner GK.
Yellow card: Byrne 93.
Longford Town: Paul Hunt, Thomas Hyland, Paddy Collins, Des Hope, Gary Cronin, Cathal Brady (Craig Walsh 75), Keith Gillespie, Mark Salmon, Jack Morley (Aidan Roche 83), Don Cowan, Austin Skelly (Lee Roche 69).
Subs not used: Jason Oladele, Daniel O’Reilly, Alvin Rouse GK, Peter Szczerbowski.
Yellow cards: Skelly 8, Salmon 61, Cowan 62, Cronin 88.
Referee: Sean Grant.
Extratime.ie man of the match: Conan Byrne (Shelbourne) – Hard to single anyone out but his goal was the difference between the sides.