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Shelbourne 2 Sligo Rovers 1: Damien Duff watches on from the stands as his side finally land first home win



IT took Damien Duff quarter of a century to experience the frustration of watching one of his sides from the stand due to a red card suspension.

If the Ireland centurion is still fuming from his dismissal at Dundalk two weeks ago at least this Shels’ victory and display will have helped soothe his anger.

From his lofty perch high in Tolka Park’s now disused Drumcondra End stand, Duff and fellow-banned coach Alan Quinn observed the hosts march to three precious Premier points.

Stunning first half goals from Jack Moylan and Sean Boyd gave the hosts a lead that withstood Sligo’s late efforts sparked by Paddy Kirk’s 64th minute response.

The victory ended a run of three consecutive defeats for Shels – who had the seasoned eye of Joey O’Brien in charge in the dugout – but left Liam Buckley with plenty of concerns as his own team’s recent encouraging run halted abruptly.

While Duff was missing from the dugout, that didn’t prevent him from leaving his imprint on his team with Aaron O’Driscoll, Shane Griffin and Boyd all restored following suspension and JJ Lunney slotting into the middle of the park.

If the opening 20 minutes were short on quality on a surface that didn’t do either side any favours, there was still a sense that Shels were the hungrier outfit.

Mark Coyle and Lunney formed a strong midfield base and the defence’s recent improved form injected confidence into the attack of Shane Farrell, Boyd and Moylan.

In contrast, Sligo looked shot of self-belief with Adam McDonnell way off the pace in midfield, Kirk looking unsure of himself at left back and a front force where only Aidan Keena showed any zip with little support from the wings.

It was McDonnell who coughed up possession all too easily in the 23rd minute to JR Wilson who fed Moylan who instantly curled a stunning right foot shot beyond Ed McGinty’s despairing dive from 16 yards for a classy opener.

The breakthrough cemented Shels’ authority and further eroded Sligo’s presence even if Greg Bolger’s well delivered 31st minute free kick allowed the raiding Nando Pijnaker to head wide at the far post.

Luke Byrne almost doubled Shels’ lead with a crisp effort from 16 yards in the 38th minute but the home side only needed to wait five more minutes before adding their second.

This time it was Moylan who teed up Boyd who beat McGinty with a terrific finish from just outside the box.

Keena – clearly unhappy with the first half exertions of his side – tested Brendan Clarke with a snap shot from 25 yards just before the interval during when Buckley hooked wingers Mark Byrne and Will Fitzgerald with Jordan Hamilton and Max Mata sent on.

These changes and presumably some harsh words from Bucko certainly altered Sligo’s approach on the restart although McGinty needed to be agile to deny Moylan’s 50th minute header with the keeper then smothering the same player’s shot.

However, Rovers produced their own moment of magic through Kirk’s fiercely struck 64th minute drive to halve the arrears.

Sligo’s expected late onslaught never materialised and it was Shels who might have added a third when the impressive McGinty denied Boyd with the striker’s effort from the rebound scraping the post before O’Driscoll headed wide.

Duff has still two more games to serve on his suspension but two further victories like this will keep him satisfied.

Shelbourne: Clarke 7; ODriscoll 7, Byrne 7, Griffin 7; Wilson 7, Lunney 7 (Dervin 6 63), Coyle 8, Kane 7; Farrell 8, Boyd 8, Moylan 8 (Carr 87). Subs – Webb, Ledwidge, Hakiki, Anaebonam, Negru, Arubi, Molloy.

Sligo Rovers: McGinty 8; Banks 6 (Horgan 78), Pijnaker 7, McCourt 7, Kirk 6; Bolger 6 (Keogh 78), McDonnell 5; Fitzgerald 5 (Mata 6 46), Cawley 5, Byrne 5 (Hamilton 6 46); Kenna 7 (Heaney 78). Subs – Morahan, Brush, Barlow, O’Sullivan.

Refreee: B Connolly 7. attendance – 2,350 est. Weather – mild, heavy showers.

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