From Andrew Dempsey at Tolka Park
It was a night of incredibly high drama at Tolka Park as a crowd of 738 were treated to a dramatic ending at the Richmond Road venue. Gary O’Neill’s late strike for the Students broke Shelbourne hearts after James English put the Reds ahead early on in the second half.
Coming into the game on the back of a disappointing 2-1 home defeat against Longford Town in the Leinster Senior Cup, manager Collie O’Neill rang the changes for his UCD side as he looked to bounce back from their exit in the provincial cup competition.
Meanwhile Owen Heary made similar changes himself following his sides 1-0 away win in the Athlone Town Stadium on Tuesday in the same competition.
Shels were also looking for their own sort of redemption as they sought to right the wrongs of their opening day defeat at the UCD Bowl with a win over their table topping opponents at the historic Drumcondra venue.
It was a rather slow start to the game as both sides looked content to cancel each other out with both defences looking well on top during the opening exchanges.
It was Shelbourne who had the best chance of a quiet opening spell as Maxi Kouogun almost got punished badly from a defensive mistake, but James English was unable to apply the finish as Josh Collins put his body on the line to keep the game scoreless.
UCD were the next to have a chance of their own as Kevin Coffey forced a fantastic save out of Dean Delany in the Shelbourne goal. Some sterling work from Daire O’Connor on the wing had found the head of Coffey whose effort was well dealt with by the Reds shot-stopper from point blank range.
It was a half of few chances as both sides cancelled one another out. Daire O’Connor looked lively but the Irish Universities International was unable to create any major chances of note in the latter stages of a rather mundane first half.
The second half started just as the first half finished with both midfields struggling to stamp their own authority on a match which ebbed and flowed into a stalemate at the Drumcondra venue.
In the first real attack of note in the second half, Derek Prendergast saw his appeals for a penalty waved away by referee Mark Lynch who saw nothing wrong with the way he was dealt with by a UCD defender.
However, it was shortly after that that the deadlock was finally broken as English latched onto a James Brown cross field ball before he hammered it into the roof of Conor Kearns’ net to put the Reds ahead in the 52ndminute.
After that, Shelbourne could have, and should have, doubled their lead as efforts from Adam Evans, Alan Byrne and Cian Kavanagh were all just about kept out by Conor Kearns in the UCD goal.
And after that initial spell of Shelbourne dominance, the game settled back into its old pattern of scrappy play as neither side were able to wrestle back control of the game as the cancelling out process began in earnest once again.
However the match did come back to life again from the 80thminute onwards as Lorcan Fitzgerald of Shelbourne and Paul Doyle of UCD both saw their tantalising efforts skew wide away from the target early on in this manic finale to the game.
In a series of flashpoints that marred the games ending, Georgie Kelly received his first yellow card of the evening following an altercation with Fitzgerald in the Shelbourne half of the field as the Reds were left aggrieved by UCD’s reluctance to put the ball out of play while a Shels player lay injured on the ground.
The dramatic finale came when Gary O’Neill rescued a late point for Collie O’Neill’s side as his effort from outside of the box deflected off a Shelbourne heel which restored parity in a quite mental finish to the match.
The drama was not yet complete as Georgie Kelly was shown a second yellow card after he was adjudged to have dived in the penalty area.
The in-form Donegal native his marching orders and he was greeted at the Drumcondra on his exit off the pitch by a number of projectiles which may well have ramifications for Shelbourne from the FAI.
At the end the result meant UCD extended their lead at the top of the table to five points while the Reds have slipped to fourth place after tonight’s results from around the grounds.
Shelbourne:Dean Delany; James Brown, Lorcan Fitzgerald, Aidan Collins (Dave Mulcahy 57), Derek Prendergast; Alan Byrne, James O’Brien (Cian Kavanagh h/t), Mark Hughes; Adam Evans, James English, Jamie Doyle.
Subs not used:Dylan Grimes, Gavin Boyne, Reece McEnteer, Shane Farrell, Lee Steacy.
Booked:Adam Evans (16), Lorcan Fitzgerald (87).
UCD:Conor Kearns; Daniel Tobin (Yoyo Mahdy 84), Liam Scales, Maxim Kouogun, Josh Collins; Paul Doyle, Daire O’Connor, Gary O’Neill, Jason McClelland, Kevin Coffey (Sean McDonald 76), Georgie Kelly.
Subs not used: Evan Farrell, Darragh Corcoran, Conor Crowley, Ben Hanrahan, Carl Williams.
Booked:Georgie Kelly (87, 90+4).
Sent Off: Georgie Kelly (90+4).
Attendance: 738 .
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Gary O’Neill (UCD).
First Division - GOAL 89': Gary O'Neill equalises with a deflected shot from the edge of the box!— UCD AFC (@UCDAFC) May 4, 2018
Shelbourne 1 - 1 UCD pic.twitter.com/y7wNARuyuD