Shelbourne 1 Cork City WFC 0
SHELBOURNE joined Peamount United at the top of the Women’s National League ahead of their clash next weekend as they narrowly defeated Cork City 1-0 at Tolka Park on Saturday afternoon.
An incredible goal from Noelle Murray midway through the first half was enough to earn Shels the three points as City, despite a spirited performance, now see their winless run stretch to ten.
Manager Paul Farrell made two changes from his side that were beaten 2-0 by Galway at Turner’s Cross in their last outing three weeks ago.
Maria O’Sullivan made her first start since she returned from college in America for the summer as she replaced Abby McCarthy in goal while ahead of her Leah Murphy came in for Christina Dring.
The Leesider’s started brightly and they created the game’s first goal-scoring opportunity in the fourth minute but after being released down the right by a brilliant pass from Eva Mangan, forward Lauren Egbuloniu blasted her effort just past the near post.
That near-miss sparked Shelbourne into life and roared on by a number of their fans that were allowed to attend, they soon began to dominate proceedings with Jamie Finn sending a shot just over the bar moments later.
The reds emerged 3-0 victors when the sides met in Cork earlier in the season when former City striker Saoirse Noonan came back to haunt her old club with two excellent finishes.
The Shels number 11 almost created her side’s opener in the seventh minute here but Maria O’Sullivan did brilliantly to deny Emily Whelan when she was through on goal.
City at times created their own problems with some loose passes out from defence and the hosts almost punished them on a couple of occasions but shortly after Noonan curled narrowly wide of the top right corner, Whelan rolled a shot just past the same post.
Whelan clipped a Noonan cross wide of the far bottom-right corner just shy of the quarter of an hour mark before the visitors again needed O’Sullivan to produce a stunning stop to deny attacker Ciara Grant.
Farrell’s side had their next sight at goal on 20 minutes but after being picked out on the edge of the penalty area by Republic of Ireland senior international Éabha O’Mahony, the Irish under 19’s playmaker Eva Mangan sent an ambitious strike from distance over the target.
But Shelbourne would finally get the goal that their display deserved midway through the first half and it was well worth the wait.
City again lost possession in their own defensive third but that should take nothing away from Noelle Murray’s sensational finish as the forward drilled an unstoppable effort over O’Sullivan and into the back of her net from 30 yards.
Noonan went close to doubling their lead minutes later but she was again thwarted from close range by her former number one.
The Rebel Army’s high-line caught Shels out on a number of occasions and Jessica Ziu was twice frustrated to have goals ruled out for offside in that opening half.
And City, to their credit, battled their way back into the game before the interval and they could’ve grabbed an equaliser in the closing stages of the first 45 but Ciara McNamara headed Sarah McKevitt’s cross just over the bar from a few yards out.
Noel King’s side regrouped during the break and they twice went close to making it 2-0 at the beginning of the second half but after Noonan’s looping hit was turned over by the outstretched O’Sullivan, the former Douglas Hall attacker fired inches wide of the near post from 20 yards.
It took City until the hour mark to finally test their former keeper Amanda Budden, who helped the club lift the FAI Cup in 2017, but she was alert and turned O’Mahony’s cheeky lob from long range over her own crossbar.
City needed their post to stop a Pearl Slattery header while O’Sullivan capped an impressive display with more great saves to deny Whelan and Ziu.
And they were inches away from snatching a draw in injury time but Christina Dring just couldn’t connect with Lauren Egbuloniu’s cross as Shels hung on to the win.