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SHELS ARE CHAMPIONS
Shelbourne claimed their third title in four seasons and 13th in their history when they finally saw off the challenge of Derry City with a 2-1 home win against Dublin rivals Bohemians - by Glenn Mason
A penalty from Stuart Byrne and a well-timed volley from Glen Crowe gave Shelbourne the all-important win. Barry Ferguson had earlier forced Steve Williams into giving Bohemians the lead through an own goal.
Shelbourne had to endure a frustrating second half as they vainly went in search of the goal that would have confirmed the win and the title. In the end, the two first half strikes were enough to send Tolka Park into raptures.
After 30 games and the numerous off-field distractions, Pat Fenlon’s side have come out on top by goal difference from an excellent Derry City side. It is further to their credit that Shelbourne have emerged victorious from a season-long duel with a side of Derry’s calibre.
An injury and suspension-hit Bohemians were forced to field centre-half Jason McGuinness up front alongside Paul Dunphy. Bohs may have had a season to forget but were buoyed by the appointment of Sean Connor as manager in the lead-up to this game.
John Paul Kelly was booked after just three minutes for a foul on Bobby Ryan as this Dublin derby opened in typical fast-paced fashion.
Bohemians went in front after 12 minutes in comical circumstances. Stephen Caffrey tamely headed a Stephen Rice free-kick goalward. Steve Williams appeared untroubled but he spilled the ball into the path of Barry Ferguson who then forced the ‘keeper into kicking the ball into his own net.
Shelbourne were rattled by the goal and survived a penalty appeal when Owen Heary handled in the area but referee Alan Kelly awarded a free kick for a foul on the Shelbourne captain.
The equaliser arrived after 23 minutes when a Davy Rogers cross found Bobby Ryan at the back post and his volley was blocked by the hand of John Paul Kelly. Stuart Byrne fired home from the spot.
Shelbourne went in front on the half hour. Jason Byrne swung in a cross and Crowe stole in between Stephen Rice and Ferguson to volley in his 12th goal of the season. Stephen O’Brien got a touch but could not keep it out.
Shelbourne came out in the second half determined to finish the game off and had two good chances to go further ahead. Jason Byrne volleyed over from eight yards just two minutes after the restart.
Then in the 50th minute, Stuart Byrne was denied when his header came back off the post and was scrambled to safety by the Bohs defence.
As the second half wore on, nerves began to set in and the tensions among the home side began to rise as was seen in a heated exchange of words between Fenlon and Davy Rogers.
Shelbourne continued to press for the third and crucial goal, but despite plenty of possession they failed to create any further clear openings. The Bohs defence showed the resilience that was so often lacking throughout the season, although they remained blunt in attack.
Not even the late dismissal of Richie Baker could spoil the home side’s celebrations. When the final whistle blew, fans swarmed onto the pitch as Tolka Park erupted with all the emotion that the season has engendered.
The future may be uncertain for Fenlon and some of his players but for now they should savour this hard-fought and deserved title success.
Shelbourne: Williams; Heary, Hawkins, Dillon, Rogers; Ryan (Baker ‘83), Ndo (O’Halloran h/t), S. Byrne, Cahill; Crowe, J. Byrne (Harris ‘57).
Subs: Delaney, O’Neill, Harris, O’Halloran, Baker.
Bohemians: O’Brien; Rice, Powell, Ferguson, Caffrey; O’Reilly, Kelly (Brady ‘90), Hunt (Duggan ‘69), Heary (Mooney ‘84); McGuinness, Dunphy.
Subs: Gregg, Duggan, Brady, Mooney, Fay.
Referee: Alan Kelly