Andrew Dempsey reports from Tolka Park
Shelbourne just about managed to push their title chase with league leaders Peamount United to the final day with a late Jamie Finn winner against Wexford Youths at Tolka Park.
The Reds fell behind in the first half thanks to a Lauren Kelly opener before Emily Whelan and Finn struck in the second half for Dave Bell’s side to bring the title race to the wire.
Unchanged from their FAI Cup semi-final defeat to Peamount, the hosts had the first chance of note in the game, with Ciamh Dollard forced into action early on.
Dollard was on hand to smother Whelan’s attempt on goal after midfielder Rebecca Cooke found the forward with a glorious through ball.
It was a tight, tense opening 15 minutes to the game that produced little to no chances of note – with Rianna Jarrett’s header wide at the near post the closest the visitors came to open the scoring.
However, Wexford took the lead just before the halfway mark through Kelly. She nicked the ball off Shels defender Jess Gargan before arrowing her effort into the top corner, leaving Rachael Kelly in the Reds goal helpless.
Youths almost scored a second minutes later through the brilliance of Lauren Kelly on the left flank. The forward found the head of Jarrett who could see only her effort on goal seep away from danger.
The hosts’ frustration grew as the half wore on and Wexford continued to threaten – the lively attacking duo of Jarrett and Kelly proving troublesome for the hosts, who were unable to get going in an attacking sense.
After a lacklustre opening half display, the Reds reacted well to their half-time dressing down and Whelan levelled the scores with just seven minutes gone in the second half.
Cooke forced a fine stop by Dollard, with the resulting ball falling to the forward who made no mistake from close range
However the Reds were almost caught unawares moments later as Aisling Frawley linked up well with Jarrett, but the forward was unable to make her chance pay.
The chances continued to flow, with Cooke once again proving to be a thorn in the visitors rear-guard, but Dollard comfortably saved from the wing-back, who looked to pull off a spectacular bicycle kick.
Jarrett then saw her cross turned shot cause issues in the hosts six-yard box, but Rachael Kelly was alert to the danger – scrambling the rebound away from goal.
Searching for a winner to keep a hold of their slim title hopes, Shels were nearly caught out on the break with just over 15 minutes to play.
Kylie Murphy fed in the lively Jarrett who cut inside to shoot, but her effort was saved well by the hosts netminder Rachael Kelly.
Calls for a home penalty were met by deaf ears as the game entered its final ten minutes of action, with Paula Brady left unmoved.
Despite almost falling behind, the Reds took a priceless lead with just under ten minutes of play remaining through the head of Jamie Finn.
Finn thundered her header from just six yards into the back of the net, with Tolka Park letting out a roar of approval as the hosts title charge continued with a dramatic finish on Dublin’s northside.
That was the end of the goalscoring action despite some frantic Wexford attacks at the death – and the title race set to go down to the final day.
Shelbourne FC: Rachael Kelly; Chloe Mustaki, Pearl Slattery Jessica Gargan; Rebecca Cooke (Isibeal Atkinson, 86), Jamie Finn, Alex Kavanagh, Jessica Ziu; Alannah McEvoy (Niamh McLaughlin, 76), Noelle Murray (Kate Mooney, 77), Emily Whelan.
Subs not used: Mia Dodd, Rachel Graham, Courtney Maguire, Jennifer McDade.
Booked: Pearl Slattery (69)
Wexford Youths Women: Ciamh Dollard, Orlaith Conlon, Edel Kennedy, Ciara Rossiter, Nicola Sinnott; Lynn Craven, Aisling Frawley (Lauren Dwyer, 66), Lauren Kelly, Kylie Murphy; McKenna Davidson, Rianna Jarrett.
Subs not used: Rebekah Cassin, Vanessa Ogbonna, Fiona Ryan, Aoife Slattery, Maeve Williams.
Referee: Paula Brady.
Attendance: 100 (Estimate).
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Rebecca Cooke (Shelbourne).