Shelbourne were unable to overcome 10-man Dundalk in an eircom League of Ireland First Division clash that was short on goals but not on incident and entertainment.

The big talking point came shortly before the interval when Dundalk 'keeper Chris Bennion was harshly dismissed for fouling Anthony Flood just outside the box.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Dundalk had the better chances in the second half, with Ian Ryan (volley) and Robert Martin (header) going very close to scoring.

Shelbourne substitute Philly Hughes had the ball in the net late on, but his effort was ruled out for offside.

Shels manager Dermot Keely selected a side with seven new arrivals in it, while his counterpart John Gill drew on six close season signings.

The hosts had the first real chance after 12 minutes when a curling free-kick from James Chambers was met by the head of Robbie Hedderman but the left-back’s header just cleared the crossbar.

Chambers was in the thick of the action again soon after as his dangerous whipped cross from the right wing was turned over for a corner by Dundalk defender John Flanagan.

Shels threatened again in the 25th minute when former Dundalk man Flood had a 25-yard free-kick tipped over by Bennion. Shels’ skipper Damien Brennan got on the end of the resulting corner but was unable to direct his header towards the target.

The visitors were offering little in the way of attack, and it was left to captain and central defender Aidan Lynch to venture forward and drive a shot wide of the right upright.

The Lilywhites then put a nice move together down the right wing, with David Cassidy and Flanagan linking well before the latter swung in a cross that caused confusion in the box.

Shelbourne goalkeeper Dean Delaney, playing his first competitive game since his return to the Reds, averted the danger by coming out to gather the ball.

Shels broke quickly with a move that ended with Bennion fouling Flood outside the area. There was no question that the Shels striker was upended, and a yellow card probably would have sufficed. However, referee Neil Doyle deemed it serious enough to brandish a red.

Gill dealt with the blow by bringing on substitute ‘keeper Aaron Shanahan to replace striker Robbie Farrell. Shanahan’s first task was to foil a David Freeman free-kick that was heading towards the top left-hand corner before the stopper plucked it from the air.

The Louth side managed to get to the interval without conceding, but not before Ben Whelehan entered the book for another yet another foul on Flood.

Dundalk started the second half well and just five minutes into the new period David O’Connor almost gave them an unlikely lead. The winger had two chances to open the scoring, but the first attempt was blocked and his second was saved by Delaney.

Ironically, Dundalk were having the better of the game at this point, and had another chance in the 51st minute when Whelehan met a David Crawley free on the volley, forcing Delaney to tip over.

Again, though, Shels launched a counter-attack and an Alan Murphy cross that landed between defender and ‘keeper was helped on by Flood only to clip the top of the bar on its way over.

Dundalk were dangerous from set pieces all night and almost snatched all three points from two dead ball situations with less than ten minutes remaining.

The first came from a Crawley free-kick which eventually fell to substitute Ian Ryan. His vicious volley stung the fingertips of Delaney. From the resulting corner, also taken by the former Shels left-back, Robert Martin headed against the crossbar.

In the dying moment, Hughes, who spent last season with Dundalk, thought he had come back to haunt Gill and Co, but his celebrations were cut short by the referee assistant’s flag. The striker had another opportunity in injury time but his fierce shot was well off target.

Shelbourne: Delaney, Murphy, Hedderman (Rutherford, 58 mins), Keely, Brennan, Chambers (Mulcahy, 81), McGill, O’Halloran, Keddy (Hughes, 74), Freeman, Flood.

Dundalk: Bennion, Flanagan (Ryan, h/t), Crawley, Lynch, Whelehan, Shiels, Duffy (Marney, h/t), Cassidy, O’Connor, Farrell (Shanahan, 41 mins), Martin.

Referee: Neil Doyle.