FINN HARPS 0
Report with thanks to extratime.ie
Football returned to Tolka Park on Friday night as Shelbourne and Finn Harps played out a lacklusture 0-0 draw in the opening game of the 2015 First Division season.
It was a first half dominated by the presence of Shels stalwart Philip Hughes as the 33-year old registered five shots on target in the opening forty-five minutes of the game, the closest of which struck the top of the Finn Harps’ crossbar.
With no chances coming in the opening twenty minutes it was clear for all to see that both teams had relentless enthusiasm and vigour in excess, however their tenacity lacked the composure to create any clear-cut chances
The game broke into life when Philip Hughes was played in by a wonderful ball from the Shels defence, the pass glancing over the entire Finn Harps defence with Hughes keeping his balance and composure while holding off his marker before his thunderous shot hit the Harps’s bar before glancing over.
Twenty minutes into the match Shelbourne’s Conor Early played an incredible ball into the Finn Harps’s box right into the path of Hughes who took the ball brilliantly in his stride before shooting straight at Harps’ goalkeeper Ciaran Gallagher who was forced into making a fine save, closing Hughes down quickly.
The game then broke into life as Harps provided attacks of their own with winger Michael Funston causing all sorts of problems down the right flank in the final fifteen minutes of the first half.
Harps registered three shots in the closing stages of the first half in between four consecutive corners. Ollie Horgan’s side were intent on putting last season’s lack of striking options behind them as Ruairi Keating and Reagan Donelon made sure the Shelbourne defence was alert and forthcoming to their advances.
The Shels defence performed well against their Donegal counterparts as new signings Sean Heaney and Evan Osam commanded a backline that alternated between three and four men throughout the course of the game, with Osam in particular standing out, creating several chances for Hughes up front.
More chances came Hughes’ way as the game progressed, with the Shel’s ace consistently playing off the shoulder of Harps’ centre backs Keith Cowan and Tommy McMonagle.
However the goal simply never came for Hughes and frustration grew amongst both fans and management teams alike as the second half progressed.
A twenty yard free kick from winger Gareth Coughlan was met by a powerful header from Hughes who’s effort glanced wide of the target while Harps also came close on two occasions.
A Gerard O’Callaghan free kick found its way to Harps winger Michael Funston inside the Shelbourne box but he dragged his shot narrowly wide of Gregg Murray’s goal, the shot being the closest Harps would come to a game-winning goal.
The game became cynical in the final fifteen minutes. Shels defender Paul Andrews was forced off with a bloody nose before substitute Simon Dixon, on the pitch a matter of minutes having replaced Andrews, was concussed and left on the turf for almost ten minutes before being brought off on a stretcher to resounding applause from all sides of Tolka Park.
But it was ultimately the safe hands of Finn Harps goalkeeper Ciaran Gallagher that earned Harps this draw at Tolka. His consistent denials of Philip Hughes won his side a point from their opening fixture and at the same time denied Shelbourne the opportunity to get three points.
Shelbourne: Greg Murray; Adam O’Connor (Daire Doyle 68), Evan Osam, Sean Heaney, Paul Andrews (Simon Dixon 77 (Alan Kehoe 86)), Colm Crowe, Gareth Coughlan, Craig Walsh, Jordan Keegan, Conor Early, Philip Hughes
Subs not used: David Ryan (gk), Mark Sandford, Jake Donnelly, Alan O’Sullivan
Bookings: Gareth Coughlan (97) Philip Hughes (98)
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Damien McNulty, Matt Crossan (Wilfried Tagbo 69), Keith Cowan, Tommy McMonagle, Raymond Foy, Michael Funston, Josh Mailey, Ruairi Keating, Tony McNamee (Brian McGroary 61), Reagan Donellon (Gerard O’Callaghan 76)
Subs not used: Tommy McCarron (gk), Darragh Black, Kevin McHugh, Garbhan Friel
Bookings: Keith Cowan (44)
Referee: John McLoughlin
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Ciaran Gallagher (Finn Harps)