Peno Scored: 12'- Philip Hughes 12'
This was the tale of two penalty appeals – Hughes’ one that was awarded, and the one denied United’s Fabio O’Brien early in the second half – a brace of decisions by referee John McLoughlin that had the Mons fans animated with a sense of grievance as they made their way home from the Newbliss Road venue.
The match-deciding incident came in the 12th minute when United keeper Gabriel Sava, rising to collect a shot from Hughes that ballooned high off the leg of defender Alan Byrne, was adjudged to have barged David McGill.
While there was a hint of an elbow in the challenge, the decision was hotly contested by the United defence, and Hughes displayed considerable aplomb when he eventually stepped up to send Sava the wrong way.
Shels, who played some fluent passing football in the first half, sought to immediately build on their advantage, and Hughes ended a mesmerising movement with a curling shot that flashed just wide. And only a poor finish let David Cassidy down after he had weaved a path through the United defence.
The Mons worked their way into the game well around the half-hour mark, a patient build-up culminating in a wicked Eric Foley drive from 20 yards that whistled just shy of the target. Fabio O’Brien also tested Dean Delany from a similar distance.
Just before half-time, however, United escaped punishment for some profligate passing in midfield when David McGill sent his drive high of Sava’s goal.
Shelbourne, although an early effort from the always dangerous Brendan McGill forced Sava into heroics, set out their second half stall to soak up the inevitable United pressure and hit on the counter. It was a strategy that appeared undone in the 56th minute when Eric Foley’s superb pass gave Fabio O’Brien a clear path to goal.
Dean Delany threw himself at the striker’s feet and palmed the ball to safety as O’Brien tumbled under the challenge in the box, but referee McLoughlin was deaf to the impassioned penalty appeals of the home side and its supporters.
Ten minutes later, the crossbar thwarted Paul Whelan’s equaliser attempt, the defender arrowing a header goalwards after Alan Byrne had knocked on Eric Foley’s free-kick.
Hughes, one of several players on both sides to pick up yellow cards, was replaced soon after going into the notebook by another former Monaghan goal-smith in Karl Bermingham, who could have made the points secure for Shels in the 73rd minute had he not driven wide at the end of an incisive counter thrust by the visitors.
A neat touch from Bermingham set up Brendan McGill for a chance which the winger volleyed over, but as the game entered the final ten minutes it was a determined United who were creating the opportunities.
Delany denied O’Brien at his near post, and substitute Michael Isichei saw a goal-bound shot deflected wide for a corner. A deft Isichei knock-down then presented O’Brien with a chance six yards out but the striker volleyed wide with Andy Boyle pressuring him.
A powerful Alan Byrne header that flew just outside the top corner kept the Mons motivated, but Shels defended with their customary assurance as the final minutes ticked away to secure what could be a vital victory in their promotion push.
Monaghan United: Gabriel Sava; Paul Whelan, Aidan Collins (David Byrne 86), Alan Byrne, Shane Grimes; John Reilly, Eric Foley, Ryan Brennan, Jason Marks (Michael Isichei 65); Declan O’Brien, Sean Brennan (Don Tierney 76).
Subs not used: Jake Rossiter, Philip Byrne, Roddy Collins, Kevin Loughran.
Shelbourne: Dean Delany; Gareth Mathews, Ian Ryan, Andy Boyle, Lorcan Fitzgerald; David McGill, Colm James, David Cassidy, Brendan McGill (Barry Clancy 88); Philip Hughes (Karl Bermingham 70), Conan Byrne.
Subs not used: Paul Skinner, Sean Byrne, John Sullivan.
Referee: John McLoughlin (Athlone).