Report: WNL: Shelbourne 1-0 Rovers

Defending champions Shelbourne had to wait until the 91st minute when substitute Caoimhe Keenan broke the deadlock in an absorbing Women’s National League game against Sligo Rovers at Tolka Park on Saturday.

This was a heroic effort by Rovers players who certainly showed that they are adapting quickly to the demands of a first season in the WNL.

Five games into a debut season at this level, which included facing three of the top teams in the WNL, and the Bit O’Red can now look forward to a break next weekend before they shape up for the visit of Treaty Utd to the Showgrounds on Saturday 16th April.

Shelbourne started on the front foot as they tried for an early goal, but they were unable to make any impression.

Kristen Sample was in early action with some smart saves and the Bit O’Red ‘keeper handled confidently.

The Sligo Rovers rearguard contained the hosts with a tight formation and frustrated Shelbourne who were penalised for a series of offside infringements in the opening 15 minutes, and that was a trend that continued for the remainder.

Emma Hansberry was a crucial influence and pivotal in the overall display for the Bit O’Red, but she limped out of the action in the 85th minute.

Gemma McGuinness worked the first opening for the visitors in the 16th minute, but Meath woman Amanda McQuillan between the Shelbourne posts saved.

Alex Kavanagh had a speculative effort for Shelbourne in the 20th minute, but it was off target.

Sligo Rovers won a corner in the 32nd minute, but it was wasted and Shelbourne countered smartly and went close as Jessica Ziu posed a few questions.

Jessie Stapleton created an opening for the hosts in the 37th minute, but once again Sample saved as Shelbourne raised the tempo.

Following that scoreless first 45 minutes, Shelbourne resumed full of intent and Noelle Murray had a good chance before she was denied by a superb Sample save in the 55th minute.

Shelbourne’s Rachael Graham was yellow-carded for a tackle in the 71st minute as a tenacious Sligo Rovers effort continued to frustrate the hosts.

Shelbourne substitute Abbie Larkin skimmed the crossbar in the 74th minute while at the other end Sligo had claims for a penalty turned away soon after.

Shels continued in the ascendancy and worked the Sligo rearguard, but they were thwarted and the Bit O’Red almost snatched a late goal when substitute Paula McGrory’s lob was scrambled to safety.

As the clock ticked into added time, Shelbourne were rewarded when Keenan got on the end of a long ball and found the net.

Last week Sligo Rovers manager Steve Feeney said he was looking for some improvement from his team each week and based on the evidence of today’s encounter his players certainly delivered on that front.

Shelbourne – Amanda McQuillan; Chloe Mustaki, Jess Gargan, Shauna Fox, Phil Slattery, Jessie Stapleton, Rachael Graham, Jessica Ziu, Megan Smyth-Lynch, Alex Kavanagh, Noelle Murray. Subs – Caoimhe Keenan for Smyth-Lynch 58 mins, Abbie Larkin for Kavanagh 64m, Saoirse Noonan for Ziu and Gloria Douglas for Fox both 79m

Sligo Rovers – Kristen Sample; Leah Kelly, Ruth Monaghan, Emma Hansberry, Gemma McGuinness, Lauren Boles,Emma Doherty, Amy Roddy, Katie Melly, Fiona Doherty, Sarah Kiernan. Subs – Aoife Brennan for F Doherty 65 mins, Erin Coyle for Melly 77m, Paula McGrory for Hansberry 85m.