Dave Donnelly reports from Tolka Park
Dean Walsh’s brace and a spectacular Rory Feely strike helped Waterford to a 3-0 friendly win and ensured Shelbourne’s pre-season finished without a win.
The Reds were quickly installed as favourites for the First Division title after making a raft of high-profile winter signings but they were easily taken apart by the 2017 champions in Drumcondra.
Some of those signings – most notably Conan Byrne – were absent but Ian Morris could still call on former Shamrock Rovers defender Luke Byrne and Europa League experience in Ciarán Kilduff.
Waterford were understrength themselves with striker Ismahil Akinade rested and midfielder Zack Elbouzedi absent after his shift for the Irish under-21s on Wednesday night.
Alan Reynolds started Walsh and Dean O’Halloran – both of whom are likely to go on loan with Bray Wanderers this season – up front alongside Cory Galvin.
The only real surprise was that it took until four minutes from half time for the Blues to break the deadlock, and what a goal it was from the former St Patrick’s Athletic defender Feely.
The right-back strode forward purposefully and, with no challenge incoming, he struck emphatically from the edge of the box into the far top corner.
The Blues side had already taken control of the game at that point without worrying the Shelbourne goal with any real regularity.
John Martin’s early shot handily cleared the crossbar, while Galvin, the smallest man on the pitch, rattled the crossbar with a header just before the midway point in the first half.
The opening goal came during the Reds’ best period of pressure during the game, Kilduff having come inches from turning home a cross and Shane Farrell having narrowly cleared the crossbar.
And no sooner had Waterford taken the lead than they were two in front as a defensive mix-up allowed Walsh to send the ball looping into the net.
The home side enjoyed a purple patch early in the second half and should have levelled within ten minutes through the industrious Farrell.
The wideman’s shot looked destined for the top corner only for a top-class save from Matthew Connor to push it onto the bar.
The ball appeared to bounce beyond the goalline before rebounding back into play but, much to the bemusement of the Shels players and coaching staff, referee Tomás Connolly said no goal.
That was as good as it got for the Reds, and Waterford should have added to their lead when Galvin was put into space on the right, but he delayed his pass to sub Jack O’Donnell and the Shels defence recovered.
Under-19 striker Regi Madika, on for Bastien Héry at the break, should have made it three from a corner but he couldn’t connect in the air.
Waterford got the third goal they merited 15 minutes from time as Walsh’s shot from distance took a wicked deflection off the boot of Michael McHugh and spun over Delany into the net.
Shelbourne: Dean Delany; Michael McHugh (Daniel McKenna 85), Derek Prendergast, Luke Byrne, Lorcan Fitzgerald; Oscar Brennan, Ryan Brennan (Sean Quinn 66), Alex O’Hanlon; Shane Farrell (Greg Moorhouse 72), Dayle Rooney, Ciaran Kilduff.
Subs not used: Imrich Toth (gk), Flavio Marku, Craig Giles, Abdulrasaw Alamu, James English.
Waterford: Matthew Connor (Paul Martin 78); Rory Feely (Cian Collins 46), Maxi Kouogun, Kenny Browne, Jack Larkin; Bastien Hery (Regi Madika 46), Shane Griffin, John Martin; Dean O’Halloran (Jack O’Donnell 58), Cory Galvin (Darragh Power 69), Dean Walsh.
Subs not used: Kevin Lynch, Shane Duggan,
Referee: Tomás Connolly.
Attendance: 250 (estimate).
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Dean Walsh (Waterford).