PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins was in the crowd at Tallaght Stadium last night to witness a severe bruising for Shelbourne in a 4-0 derby defeat to table-toppers Shamrock Rovers.
And, despite his dodgy hip and advanced years, the President could have possibly done a better job in defence for Shels than some of the men in red shirts as they repeatedly shot themselves in the foot, some horrendous defending playing a big part in a comprehensive Rovers win.
An early foul by keeper Dean Delany saw Shels go a man and a goal down as Gary Twigg beat sub keeper Paul Skinner -- a replacement for the dismissed Delany -- from the penalty spot.
Rovers then doubled their lead with a bizarre own goal from Shels midfielder Stephen Hurley.
Ronan Finn's long-range strike made it three before the break for the home side and their fourth goal came about after Reds centre half Ian Ryan gifted the ball to Aaron Greene to score.
"It was not a good night for us, you have to give credit to Rovers, but we're disappointed that we didn't play," said Shels boss Alan Mathews.
"The defending was extremely disappointing. You try and defend in the right ways. The second goal was a freak, it was a blind pass and these things happen. But the third and fourth were also disappointing. The second goal, you won't see the like of that across Europe this weekend," added Mathews, admitting that his game plan was thrown off kilter with the early dismissal of his keeper.
"We were denied the opportunity to see where we really are this season because we didn't play with 11 men, the referee decided to send off our keeper and I thought it was very rash."
It was the first league meeting of the two clubs since 2005 and while at that stage Shels were the more dominant force, there was no doubt, upon last night's evidence, that the advantage has definitely swung the other way.
Rovers were in control from the off, thanks to that third-minute sending off for Delany. He was shown a straight red for hauling down Billy Dennehy in the box and as Shels made the necessary switch -- sub keeper Skinner came on for Brendan McGill -- Twigg readied himself for what would be a successful penalty kick.
Just after the half-hour, Shels were 2-0 down thanks to that awful own goal -- Hurley, not on the same wavelength as Skinner, was way off his line when the midfielder sent a strong pass back over the Shelbourne line.
And in the final seconds of the first half, Finn made it 3-0, beating Skinner from long range with a powerful shot.
Shels tried to respond and ex-Hoop Pat Kavanagh tested keeper Oscar Jansson on 53 minutes but the rout was completed in the 74th minute.
Defender Ryan, normally so reliable, headed the ball towards his own keeper, but Rovers forward Greene latched on and slammed a shot past Skinner.
So Rovers stay top of the table, ahead of Sligo Rovers on goal difference, but there was a sour note to finish on as Hoops substitute Gary McCabe was sent off for a second bookable offence, less than 20 minutes after he came on for Dennehy. "It's not the end of the world, we lost a game but we've had a good start to the season and we'll go on from here," added Mathews.