Andrew Dempsey reports from Tolka Park
Shelbourne laboured to a slender one goal win over DLR Waves thanks to a header from Alex Kavanagh on the hour mark.
Dave Bell’s side struggled to create chances against the visitors who had Sophie Lenehan to thank in keeping the deficit down for Graham Kelly’s resurgent side.
Having dropped two points last time out against Kilkenny United, DLR Waves went into the game as rank outsiders given the Reds imperious home form this year at Tolka Park.
Shels enjoyed a bright start and almost took an early lead as Noelle Murray’s cross almost went straight into the net from the by-line, but Roisin McGovern was on hand to keep the ball out to spare goalkeeper Sophie Lenehan’s blushes.
Emily Whelan then went close minutes later, but she was unable to steer her effort home, with a grateful Lenehan saving comfortably in the end from close range.
Dave Bell’s side continued to probe, with Jess Gargan and Whelan combining well on the right hand side. The ball then fell to Alex Kavanagh after a defensive mix-up, but she was unable to convert for the hosts.
Whelan was proving a real threat on the right flank but was unable to see her efforts hit the back of the net, as Lenehan picked up the ball comfortably following the wingers low drive.
Despite dominating for much of the opening period, Shelbourne almost went in behind at the break if it wasn’t for some fortune on Rachael Kelly’s part.
Waves captain Catherine Cronin got free on the left, before turning into the penalty area. She then tried to turn a feeble effort home but was thwarted by a combination of strong goalkeeping and luck.
Fiona Donnelly then went close moments moments after as her effort on goal was saved comfortably by Kelly in the Waves goal – as Graham Kelly’s underdogs finished out the opening period in a positive fashion.
After an inefficient opening half from the hosts, Bell saw his young side react well in the opening stages of the second period, getting in behind the Waves rear-guard with relative ease. But they were forced to wait for their opener.
Isibeal Atkinson, who was impressive on the left side, proved a real thorn in the visitor’s defensive side – with her direct running and power proving troublesome.
The winger tried to steer past Lenehan at the near post, but she was unable to fire home as the pressure intensified on the Waves.
Whelan then went on a slaloming run minutes later, but she was unable to curl it home as the Reds high pressure began to yield rewards in an attacking sense.
The Reds were soon rewarded for their invention as Kavanagh headed home on the hour mark from a Jess Gargan delivery on the right.
Title-chasing Shelbourne then almost grabbed a second minutes later as Murray saw her thundering strike crash off the crossbar, with Lenehan beaten all ends up.
It was exhibition stuff from then on from the hosts as Jamie Finn really should have made it two after a superb passage of play that saw Waves pierced open.
The Reds pressed for a second late on but were thwarted by some superb goalkeeping from player-of-the-match Lenehan who performed admirably to keep the score down for the visitors, leaving the Reds primed for a huge clash against Peamount United next Sunday at Tolka Park.
Shelbourne FC: Rachael Kelly; Jamie Finn, Jessica Gargan, Rachel Graham, Alex Kavanagh, Chloe Mustaki, Pearl Slattery, Jessica Ziu; Isibeal Atkinson (Rebecca Cooke, 60), Noelle Murray, Emily Whelan (Kate Mooney, 79).
DLR Waves: Sophie Lenehan; Katie Burdis (Jenny O’Keefe, 67), Fiona Donnelly (Sophie O’Donoghue, 79), Nicole Keogh, Roisin McGovern, Niamh Prior; Orla Casey, Nadine Clare, Ally O'Keeffe; Catherine Cronin, Rachel Doyle (Sinead Gaynor, h/t).
Referee: Orla Devaney.
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Sophie Lenehan (DLR Waves).