By Séamus Leonard

Shelbourne moved two points clear at the top of the eircom League First Division after a comfortable win at Tolka Park.

The hosts broke the deadlock in the 26th minute when defender Robbie Hedderman headed home to notch his first competitive goal since joining the Reds.

Another defender sealed the points for Shels nine minutes after the interval.

It also came from a corner, with captain Damien Brennan finishing from close range after Anthony Flood had flicked Alan Mulcahy's cross on towards the back post.

Shelbourne manager Keely had called on his men not to undermine their victory in Dundalk by dropping silly points at home, and they have not let him down.

Keely was forced into making one change from the side that started in the 5-0 hammering of Kildare County, with Keith Dunne, who scored after coming off the bench against the Thoroughbreds, replacing the injured Mark O’Brien in midfield.

The visitors showed one change from the side that held Dundalk to a 0-0 draw on Friday, with Ian Malone coming in at right-back for Paul Whelan.

Shels would have been glad at his absence, as it was Whelan who scored the winner in the clash between the two sides on Good Friday. That loss remains the Drumcondra outfit’s only league reverse in 12 games.

Mick Cooke’s Monaghan came with the clear intention of frustrating their opponents, and started with Eoin Lanigan operating as a lone striker.

For their part, Shels must have pinpointed the right side as a weakness for Monaghan, as they repeatedly tried to set either Mark Rutherford or David Freeman free down on the left flank.

The game attracted a reasonable crowd of 776, with St Patrick’s Athletic manager Johnny McDonnell an interested spectator – an obvious sign of how well that Shels are doing at the moment.

A few seconds after McDonnell took his seat in front of the press box he was joined by Brian Kerr, who stepped down as the Saints’ director of football the previous evening.

Monaghan settled after a shaky start and winger James Hand cleverly manufactured a chance for himself but hadn’t the requisite power or accuracy on his attempt.

Shels should have taken the lead after a quarter of an hour when Rutherford picked out Freeman with a good cross but the striker – scorer of a hat-trick against Kildare - placed a weak header straight into the arms of Danny Woods.

Rutherford had a good chance a couple of minutes later but blazed a left-footed shot over from the edge of the box.

Shels then took the lead from a second Greg O’Halloran corner in quick succession. Slack defending from Mons left Hedderman with plenty of space to nod home with relative ease from six yards out.

The hosts were in cruise control but were nearly punished for a moment of complacency with ten minutes left in the half.

A training ground free-kick failed to come off for them and Monaghan broke with speed and it took a fine fingertip save from Dean Delaney to help a drive from Mons captain Don Tierney over the crossbar.

The home side opened began the brighter after the interval and twice tested Woods, through David McGill and Anthony Flood, in the opening three minutes.

Shels grabbed their second nine minutes after the break, and again it was a corner that was the undoing of the Ulster men.

Rutherford was the taker this time, with Flood flicking it on at the front post and Brennan nipping in at the back stick to prod home his third goal of the season.

Monaghan were very close to pulling one back soon after. Darren Meenan swung in a free-kick from the left wing and Aaron Mooney’s glancing header went inches wide of Dean Delaney’s left upright.

United keeper Woods was forced into making another fine save in the 65th minute when James Chambers raced forward and onto a clever pass from substitute Mulcahy but the full-back’s low shot was pushed past the post.

From there on in the league leaders cantered to victory, and substitutes Max Cream and Peter McGlynn both made Woods work hard to keep the scoreline respectable as the full-time whistle approached.

Dundalk’s 0-0 draw with Longford Town means Shels top the table on points for the first time this season.


Shelbourne: Delaney; Chambers, Keely, Brennan (c), Hedderman; Dunne (Mulcahy, h/t), O’Halloran, McGill, Rutherford (McGlynn, 84 mins); Flood, Freeman (Cream, 80).

Monaghan United: Woods; Mooney, Malone, Byrne, Williamson; Meenan, Tierney (c) (Reilly, 77 mins), McCrossan, Maher, Hand (Collins, 37 mins); Lanigan (Sheppard, 77).

Referee: Neil Doyle.