Goals from Gareth Coughlan and Sean McCarron meant that Shelbourne and Finn Harps shared the points in an entertaining match at Tolka Park on Friday night.
McCarron’s stunning 33rd minute strike gave Harps the lead, but after sustained pressure Shels equalised through Coughlan’s second half penalty kick.
Possession was dominated by Shels in the early stages, but Harps were solid defensively. Dylan Connolly had two penalty claims turned down by referee Ben Connolly, but Shelbourne weren’t at their best in front of goal.
For his part, Conor Winn in the Finn Harps goal was in good form. Winn had to react quickly to deny a point-blank Connolly shot from a narrow angle after 25 minutes. As the half went on Harps grew in confidence and players like Tommy Bonner and Damien McNulty began to make headway in the Shels half.
Still, the visitors were largely restricted to shots from distance and it was one of those long-range efforts that gave them the lead on 33 minutes. After a string of passes brought play to about 25 yards from Greg Murray’s goal, McCarron turned on the ball and hit it beautifully.
From the moment McCarron hit the ball, it looked set to fly in to the top corner - a spectacular way to open the scoring. Shels then immediately tried to put pressure on for an equaliser. Debutant Sean Russell forced a great save out of Conor Winn just before half time with a low, driving shot from the edge of the Harps box.
Shels looked panicked at times early in the second half, with passes consistently going astray. Gradually, though, they regained their composure and began to threaten the Harps goal again.
On the hour mark Dylan Connolly was brought down in the box for a third time - this time by Ciaran Coll. Ben Connolly pointed straight to the spot, and Gareth Coughlan duly sent Winn the wrong way to bring the score level once more.
Harps substitute Carel Tiofack put the ball in the Shels net after 74 minutes, but another substitute - referee Paula Brady - ruled the goal out because of an earlier foul on Adam O’Connor.
Winn denied Connolly again, whis time with his feet, after the Shels winger broke away from his marker and shot on 79 minutes. Connolly went close againwith five minutes left - his deflected shot going just wide.
Sean McCarron had a clear chance to win the match with a minute of normal time left, but headed over when he was unmarked at the far Shels post. It looked like Shels might fashion a chance in added time. Philip Hand’s free-kick in the 95th minute was the closest they came though, and it was well saved by Winn.
Shelbourne: Greg Murray; Brian Gannon, Lee Desmond, Adam O’Connor, Philip Hand; Gary Dempsey, Jake Donnelly; Dylan Connolly, Gareth Coughlan, Sean Russell (Adam McDonnell 46); Lee Duffy (Dylan Cashin 79).
Subs not used: Nathan Murphy (gk), Ryan Robinson, Simon Dixon, Matthew Taylor, John Sullivan.
Booked: O’Connor, Coughlan, D Connolly.
Finn Harps: Conor Winn; Ciaran Coll, Damien McNulty, Packie Mailey, Josh Mailey; Gareth Harkin, Tommy Bonner (Carel Tiofack 64), Thomas McMonagle, Pat McCann (Brian McGroary 82); Sean McCarron, Kevin McHugh.
Subs not used: Sean Patton, Paul McVeigh, Graham Fisher, Darragh Black.
Booked: Tommy Bonner, Ciaran Coll.
Referee: Ben Connolly.
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Conor Winn (Finn Harps)