It may be much-maligned by pundits, fans and managers alike, but Shelbourne and UCD showed on Tuesday night that there might be life in the Leinster Senior Cup yet.
The Reds come away with a 2-1 win from a match that sometimes lacked in quality, but rarely in desire. Mark Leech put Shels ahead in the first half before Colm Crowe cancelled his goal out.
Dean Kelly’s spectacular late winner capped a fairly good overall performance for Shels and ensured that they are in with a chance of a twentieth Leinster Senior Cup title.
With both sides attempting to play passing football, it was perhaps a bit ironic that both of the first two goals came from set pieces. Mark Leech scored from Shels’ first corner just before the half hour mark, and Colm Crowe levelled for UCD with a deflected goal from a corner.
Leech rose superbly to head the ball in after Dean Kelly headed the corner across goal, evading all UCD defenders. The home side, winners of the Leinster Senior Cup in 2010, tried to push on afterwards but were pegged back just three minutes later.
College’s second corner of the match fell for Adeyemo outside the box, and his powerful shot deflected off a defender and fell for Crowe - whose first goal of the season was an easy tap in.
Apart from the goals, though, these two sides largely cancelled each other out in the first half. Chances didn’t come easily for either side, with both alternating between spells of counter-attacking and playing patient build-up football. Sloppy mistakes on both sides made sure that neither ever looked comfortable though.
Ex-Shels striker Dinny Corcoran had the best chance of the opening stages when his placed shot nearly crept inside the far post on 19 minutes. UCD broke quickly on the counter-attack, with Ola Adeyemo and Samir Belhout providing ample pace down the wings.
Mark Leech had two clear opportunities before the break to score, but couldn’t make the best of either. Leech, looking for a fourth goal of the season, was a clear target in the Students’ penalty area - and had another great headed chance early in the second half, when Mark McGinley had to palm the ball wide.
Shels had the best of the match for the first twenty minutes of the second half. Gradually the Students came back into it, but they - like their hosts - weren’t able to create any clear chances from their time on the ball. James Kavanagh’s blasted shot straight at Ger Hanley - again from a corner - was as good as it got for College.
Just as the match seemed destined to plod along toward extra time, Dean Kelly popped up with a goal of the very best quality. Robert Bayly darted out of his own half before being tackled. Kelly took one touch a few yards outside the box before curling the ball beautifully into the top right corner.
UCD - who have never won the Leinster Senior Cup - tried in vain to grab a late equaliser, but the Reds abandoned their short-passing in the later stages to hold on, and in the end were deserved winners.
Shelbourne FC: Ger Hanley; Robert Cornwall (Stephen Sheerin 31), Adam O’Connor, Ian Ryan, Jack Memery; Adam Hanlon (Alex Prizeman 68), Robert Bayly, Pat Flynn, Sean Brennan (Philip Hughes 70); Mark Leech, Dean Kelly.
Subs Not Used: Niall Burdon, Jake Donnelly, Craig Mooney, Darren Tinnelly.
UCD: Mark McGinley; Thomas O’Halloran, Tomás Boyle (Gareth Matthews 46), James Kavanagh, Liam Traynor; Samir Belhout, Craig Walsh, Colm Crowe, Ola Adeyemo (Sean Coyne 56); Adam Whelan (Gary Burke 69), Daniel Corcoran.
Subs Not Used: Ger Barron, Hugh Douglas, Tyrone McNelis, Cillian Morrison.
Referee: Adriano Reale
Attendance: 140 (official)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Mark Leech (Shelbourne).