Monaghan United moved to within four points of the top of the table with a win over Shelbourne in Tolka Park on Friday night. Sean Brennan put Monaghan ahead after a half hour of play. Shels equalised in the second half through Philip Hughes, but Monaghan didn't wait long before winning the match through Ryan Brennan after 69 minutes.
A nice exchange of passes with Ryan Brennan, along with some loose Shels marking, gave John Reilly a clear shot on goal just inside the Shels box after eight minutes. But Reilly's shot drifted harmlessly wide, past Paul Skinner's far post. Heavy rain made it hard for either side to really assert themselves, with both having several half-chances- but few clear-cut ones- in the opening half hour.
It took a controversial goal to really spark the match into life on 31 minutes. An attempted clearance from Gareth Matthews came off the foot of Declan O'Brien inside the Shels box. Whether O'Brien actually intended to pass the ball to Sean Brennan was unclear, but the ball ended up with Brennan in what looked like an offside position just to the left of the goal.
With several Shels defenders calling for an offside, assistant referee Wayne McDonnell let play continue. Brennan skilfully pulled the ball back and rounded Paul Skinner to tap the ball in. Furious protests from the Shels players followed, with Gareth Matthews picking up a yellow card, but the goal stood.
Andy Boyle could have given Shels an equaliser early in the second half, shooting over inside the Mons box after Colm James knocked the ball on for him. Moments later Boyle had another chance, just missing the ball
at the far post after David Cassidy put the ball in well from a free-kick.
Shels were always on the lookout for that precious equaliser, which left them vulnerable to counter-attacks. Declan O'Brien shot menacingly wide after 58 minutes, but it wasn't long before Shels were back on the attack. Four minutes later, Philip Hughes levelled the match.
Captain David Cassidy headed the ball on to the Monaghan bar, prompting Mons 'keeper Gabriel Sava to flap at it. The rebound fell for ex-Mons striker Philip Hughes to strike ferociously off the crossbar and in. But once they went behind, Monaghan immediately looked the hungrier side.
Ryan Brennan scored the decisive goal on 69 minutes, finishing superbly into the bottom right corner of the goal. Declan O'Brien played the ball to Brennan well inside the Shels box, with Paul Skinner helpless as the ball flew past him.
Brennan again threatened the Shels goal with ten minutes left, his long-range free kick whistling past the left post. A minutes later Shels captain David Cassidy made a brave run past a Mons player in midfield and looked like he had a clear sight of goal, but his shot was easily saved by Gabriel Sava. The older of the Brennan brothers, Sean, shot speculatively from 35 yards with four minutes left, with the ball's bounce causing Paul Skinner to put it out wide.
Substitute Kevin Dawson was clear on goal in the final minute of regulation time with no Monaghan players near him, but his scuffed shot fell wide, in what was the last real chance for Shels to get anything from the match.
Shelbourne: Paul Skinner; Gareth Matthews, Lorcan Fitzgerald, Andy Boyle, Stephen Paisley; Ian Ryan [Kevin Dawson '58], Collie James [Philip Gorman '58], David Cassidy (c), Sean Byrne [Chris Mulhall '81], Brendan McGill; Philip Hughes.
Subs Not Used: Dean Delany, Barry Clancy, John Sullivan, Karl Bermingham.
Yellow Cards: Gareth Matthews, Stephen Paisley.
Monaghan United: Gabriel Sava; Aidan Collins, Shane Grimes, William McDonagh, Alan Byrne (c); Eric Foley, John Reilly, Ryan Brennan, Jordan Keegan [Jason Marks '75]; Sean Brennan [Keith Quinn '90]; Declan O'Brien [Michael Isichei '85].
Subs Not Used: Mark Grace, David Byrne, Paul Byrne, Philip Byrne,.
Yellow Cards: Shane Grimes, Aidan Collins.
Referee: Rob Rogers.
Attendance: 923 (Official)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Sean Brennan.