Sunday, 30 June 2013

Shelbourne 0 v 2 Sligo Rovers

Friday 28th June 2013
League of Ireland Premier Division
Tolka Park, Drumcondra (Dublin)
Admission: €15.00
Programme: €3.00
Attendance: 1250
Match Rating: 3

After just over a month since my last game, and a similar length of time to go until my next competitive football game, I headed over to Ireland for my first game of the 2013/14 season - although as football is a summer sport in Ireland, this was a fixture about half way through their season.

Based in Dublin, I had the choices of visiting Drogheda, UCD or Shelbourne to visit a new ground for me. I opted for a visit to Tolka Park, a ground that I had heard was full of character, and which tonight would see the reigning Champions visit a club cut adrift at the bottom of this season's table. Tolka Park is located about a half hour walk northwards from the city centre towards the airport, in the suburb of Drumcondra, and it was indeed a ground which oozed character and history. Entering the ground in one corner, to the left, along the length is an all-seater stand which has lots of narrow pillars along the front and a bar inside. Along the other length is a large terrace with seats bolted on to it, with only the middle section having an old fashioned stand for cover, and this is where away fans were housed this evening. Behind one of the goals was another larger former terrace, uncovered and now with seats bolted on, whilst behind the remaining goal a tall modern stand is placed between the goal and corner flag. Between the entrance and this stand were small buildings housing a club shop, refreshments and sweets, and it is also permissible to stand along this goalline in an otherwise all-seater stadium. The programme was attractive, in colour throughout, and gave a good background to tonight's fixture.

Shelbourne have had a disastrous season so far, five points adrift at the foot of the table with just two wins and three draws from their 17 games so far. One of those wins was last time out, away at very local rivals Bohemians in the last game before the short summer break. Before that, they had lost five league games straight, a run that contained a change of manager. Reigning champions Sligo had a fabulous start to this season too, winning their first eight games straight, although have hit the buffers somewhat since then, winning only once in their eight subsequent games before winning 5-2 last time out at home to strugglers UCD. They also had not won away from home for two months. They are still right in there challenging at the top of the table though, in third place, four points behind leaders St Patrick's Athletic with a game in hand.

On a pleasantly sunny evening, the game had an explosive introduction as the teams walked out of the tunnel, with the some fans in the stand behind the goal setting off many flares and waving flags to mark the ten year anniversary of the Ultras fans. The first half was low on quality and entertainment in truth, but Shelbourne looked a surprisingly decent team. Whilst they rarely looked like scoring, nor did Sligo, as the game developed into a midfield scrap


The second half continued much as the first, although on 58 minutes Sligo took the lead, when a corner wasn't dealt with at all by the Shelbourne defence and Seamus Conneely turned the ball in with his knee at the far post. One usually fears for a plucky but struggling team once they fell behind and indeed that proved to be the case as Sligo started to dominate the game. Shelbourne still were competitive, they just never looked like they could score now. The game was put to bed once and for all on 78 minutes when the ball was driven in from the right wing, which drew the keeper out, and Kieran Djilali ran onto the ball to stroke it home. Shelbourne did actually have their best chance of the night in the last few minutes when the ball was headed over the bar by Graham Gartland from a central position. Sligo saw the game out comfortably though to keep right in contention at the top, whilst for Shelbourne the picture looks ever bleaker. If they can carry tonight's first half performance through to future games against more limited opponents, survival may still not be beyond them, with only the bottom team being automatically relegated.

No comments: