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Shels pay penalty for Delany's red card

President Michael D Higgins was present in Tallaght for this Dublin derby and, much like his election to the Aras, the story of this emphatic victory was the travails of the opposition.

Shelbourne came to Dublin 24 buoyed by an unbeaten start to the league campaign, but the early dismissal of their goalkeeper Dean Delany, which was further punished by Gary Twigg from the spot, and a farcical own-goal from midfielder Stephen Hurley ended this match as a contest. Indeed, the President -- who surprised Rovers with a 6pm phonecall saying he wanted to come along -- was making his way for a half-time cuppa when Ronan Finn smashed in a third.

With 10 points from a possible 12, Stephen Kenny can be happy with the beginning of his reign, although the circumstances of this game make it difficult to draw firm conclusions from the outcome.

The kick-off was delayed here due to crowd congestion, a contrast from the isolation which Billy Dennehy found himself in as he scampered into the penalty box to chase an Aaron Greene through-ball in the third minute. He nipped the ball around the advancing Delany, who brought the Kerryman crashing down to earth.

Referee Derek Tomney sprinted to award a penalty and a red card. Understandably, the Shels back-up 'keeper Paul Skinner was unprepared for such a quick introduction and three minutes elapsed before his arrival in place of Brendan McGill. Twigg's low strike crept through the newcomer's fingers and into the bottom corner.

Shels showed an ability to perform with 10 men in last year's FAI Cup and they regrouped for a familiar challenge. They competed well in the period that immediately followed, and even threatened with a pair of free kicks from Philip Hughes and Lorcan Fitzgerald.

struggling

The Hoops tried to stretch their visitors, yet they were struggling to convincingly play through the red shirts until they were gifted a second just after the half-hour mark. This really was silly.

Skinner advanced from between the sticks to keep the ball in play near the corner flag, as Shels tried to pass themselves out of trouble. Rovers pressed forward as Hurley collected and the midfielder, clearly forgetting that Skinner had gone walkabout, nonchalantly stroked the ball towards the empty net. With horror, he watched as his worst nightmare unfolded.

The setback took the wind from the Shelbourne sails, and they quickly shipped another. Rovers' Finn unleashed a thunderbolt that crashed into the roof of the net with Skinner's desperate attempts helping it on its way. The defending champions were able to withdraw Ken Oman at the break and pushed on in search of further goals. Twigg and Finn both wasted opportunities in a frenetic scramble that followed the resumption.

Realistically, it seemed to be a damage limitation exercise for Shels from then on, but some moments of complacency from the locals did actually provide them with sporadic joy in the final third. Paddy Kavanagh should have scored against his former employers.

Kevin Kilbane, who was here on scouting duty for Hull, would have appreciated the space afforded to the Rovers wide men as the game opened up.

Greene, a promising left-winger, benefited from more Shels generosity to add a fourth. Ian Ryan hit an underclubbed header back to Skinner and the winter recruit swooped to find the net. The night ended on a sour note for Rovers when substitute Gary McCabe received a second yellow card as a punishment for diving. Alas, the restoration of parity came 80 minutes too late for Alan Mathews' tired side.

Shamrock Rovers -- Jansson, Gannon, Oman (Gartland 45), Sives, Brennan; Rice, Finn Turner; Dennehy (McCabe 61), Greene; Twigg (Kavanagh 75).

Shelbourne -- Delany, Matthews, Boyle (Paisley 81), Ryan, Fitzgerald; McGill (Skinner 6), Hurley, Cronin, Byrne (Murphy 61); Kavanagh; Hughes

REF -- D Tomney (Dublin).

Irish Independent