A last minute Sligo Rovers goal gave Ian Baraclough a hard-earned point against newly promoted Shelbourne in the opening game of the season. Philly Hughes’ 42nd minute opener looked as if it had given Shels all three points until Jason McGuinness equalised with virtually nothing left on the clock.
It was a lively first-half and both sides were out to prove a point. Shels’ keeper Dean Delany was called in to action after just two minutes when John Dillon had an effort on goal. Former St Pat's striker Danny North was through on goal but Delany responded quickly to keep the game scoreless.
North was looking sharp early on and latched on to a flick-on from Jason McGuinness, but could only hit it over the bar. It was a scrappy 45 minutes and both sides were giving away plenty of needless free-kicks. Philly Hughes scored against the Bit o’Red in the FAI Ford Cup final and, looking as dangerous as ever, proved his worth when he scored on 42 minutes with a curling free-kick. The free-kick may have been controversial as Danny Ventre looked to have taken the ball cleanly but you can take nothing away from Hughes as he hit it so beautifully.
Sligo were reduced to ten men in the dying stages of the first half when Mark Quigley was given his marching orders for a dodgy tackle on Shelbourne’s Paddy Kavanagh. Sligo started the second-half brightly and were keen to send out a warning early on. David Cassidy is a cult hero at Tolka Park and went so close to doubling the Dublin side’s lead when Lorcan Fitzgerald played a perfect ball over the top to Cassidy, but it was cleared by Jason McGuinness.
Former Dundalk man Ross Gaynor, filling in at left-back, was sending warning signals to Shelbourne with his early corners and was finding himself in acres of space at moments throughout the game. The Ardee native was playing in perfect crosses in front of Delany’s goal but Rovers were unable to convert anything.
Paddy Kavanagh was a regular bench-warmer for Shamrock Rovers last season but looked sharp and went agonisingly close to giving Shels a second when he headed just wide of Gary Rogers’ goal. A Joseph Ndo free then reached the head of Jason McGuinness perfectly but the former Bohs man hit it straight at Delany in goal.
Derek Tomney was at the receiving end of plenty of abuse from both sets of fans and did nothing to help this matter when he denied a penalty shout for Shels. Philly Hughes appeared to be taken down in the box by Gavin Peers but Tomney waved play on. Hughes and David Cassidy were linking up nicely but were unable to turn their play in to a goal.
Sligo had been threatening throughout the second half and grabbed a late equaliser through the head of Jason McGuinness in the last movement of the game. Gavin Peers’ overhead kick met the head of McGuinness perfectly and he slotted home to give Ian Baraclough his first point of the season.
Sligo responded well after being reduced to ten men but Alan Mathews’ side showed great strength to take the lead.
Shelbourne: Dean Delany; Gareth Matthews, Andy Boyle, Ian Ryan, Lorcan Fitzgerald; Conan Byrne, David Cassidy, Glen Cronin, Paddy Kavanagh, Stephen Hurley; Philly Hughes.
Subs not used: Brendan McGill, Brian Shortall, Paul Skinner, Sean Byrne, Philip Gorman, John Sullivan.
Bookings: Cronin (90+4)
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers; Alan Keane, Gavin Peers, Jason McGuinness, Ross Gaynor; Danny Ventre, John Dillon (Liam Martin, 86), Romauld Boco, Joseph Ndo (Lee Lynch, 72); Mark Quigley, Danny North.
Subs not used: Richard Brush, Jake Dykes, Ben McGarry, Mark McGoldrick, David Cawley.
Bookings: Ventre (41), Peers (45+1), Gaynor (82), Keane (90+4)
Sendings Off: Quigley (45+2)
Referee: Derek Tomney.
Extratime.ie man of the match: Ross Gaynor (Sligo Rovers).