IT’S BEEN A long winter but the domestic league is finally back in action.
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Full-time: Shelbourne 1 Sligo Rovers 1
We’re in Tolka Park for Shelbourne’s return to the Premier Division, where they welcome Sligo Rovers, who are sure to be challenge for title having finished second to Shamrock Rovers last season.
Be sure to check in with us as we keep you up-to-date with the action here and across the country in the ten games which kick-off in the opening weekend of the 2012 campaign.
Tonight’s featured fixture is a replay of November’s FAI Cup final. That day, Sligo keeper Ciaran Kelly continued his penalty shootout heroics after coming off the bench in the final minute of extra-time to save four spot kicks before Rafa Cretaro dispatched the winner.
Check out highlights of that game here:
YouTube credit: benjo99sligo
19.10 – Everyone at Tolka in great spirits on their comeback to the big time. There's also talk that recently-vacated Sligo boss Paul Cook will be in attendance tonight. Still 50 minutes until kick-off.
19.16 – Up in Hunky Dorys Park, champions Shamrock Rovers have just got the season underway against Drogheda United. It's still 0-0 there.
19.22 – Starting lineups are in…
<blockquote>Shelbourne: Dean Delaney, Gareth Fitzgerald, Lorcan Boyle, Glen Cronin, Conan Byrne, David Cassidy, Philip Hughes, Paddy Kavanagh, Stephen Hurley, Ian Ryan. Subs: Brendan McGill, Brian Shorthall, Paul Skinner, Sean Byrne, Philip Gorman, John Sullivan.
Sligo Rovers: Gary Rogers, Jason McGunnees, Alan Keane, Gavin Peers, Ross Gaynor, Danny Ventre, John Dillon, Romald Boco, Mark Quigley, Danny North, Joseph Ndo. Subs: Richard Brush, Jake Dykes, Ben McGarry, Liam Martin, Mark McGoldrick, David Cawley, Lee Lynch.</blockquote>
19.43 – Our man in Drogheda, Niall Kelly, reports that after 25 minutes gone it's been all Rovers. Craig Sives and Gary Twigg have both had shots cleared off the line while Gary O'Neill forced Gabriel Sava into a good save at this near post.
19.45 – <strong>GOAL! Drogheda United 1-0 Shamrock Rovers (Dean Marshall)</strong>
He's clearly jinxed the Hoops there as the home side have just taken the lead. Dean Marshall with a free-kick.
19.54 – <strong>GOAL! Drogheda United 1-1 Shamrock Rovers (Gary Twigg)</strong>
Rovers' Scottish striker gets his season off to a great start by equalising on 43 minutes. It's half-time there now.
20.07 – Minutes applause and we are off at Tolka. Sligo playing in their new blue away strips shooting from left to right. Shels in their traditional red and white.
20.09 – Two great chances for the visitors in the opening three minutes. First John Dillon has a go after receiving the ball at the back post and stings the hands of Dean Delaney. Seconds later Mark Quigley finds strike partner Danny North with a beautifully flighted ball but he can only poke it into Delaney's hands.
20.12 – <strong>GOAL! St Pat's 1-0 Bray (Dean Kelly)</strong>
Former Shamrock Rovers striker Dean Kelly has headed home a Sean O'Connor header to put the Saints in front.
20.16 – Paddy Kavanagh grinds out an opening down the right flank for Alan Mathews' side but the cross is eventually headed away. First 11 minutes have been played at a high tempo.
20.18 – David Cassidy's free kick from 30 yards is whipped into a crowd of players and a glancing header from Conan Byrne isn't far away.
20.21 – <strong>GOAL! Drogheda United 1-2 Shamrock Rovers (Twigg)</strong>
Billy Dennehy's free isn't cleared properly and after pinging about the box, is driven home by Twigg for his second of the night.
20.25 – An Alan Keane cross from the right is deflected on target and has to be touched over by Delaney for a Sligo corner, which comes to nothing.
20.27 – The Shels faithful aren't happy with the referee's decision after Lorcan Fitzgerald goes down under a challenge from Dillon. Sligo break and win a corner. The delivery finds its way to the back post, where North can only manage to blaze over.
20.31 – Bit of a scary moment for Rogers, who is put under pressure by Cassidy after receiving a pass back from skipper Danny Ventre but he kicks the ball out of play with his second touch.
20.36 – Elsewhere, it is half-time in a number of the league's other games:
<blockquote>St Pat's 1-0 Bray
UCD 1-0 Cork
Derry 0-0 Bohemians
Limerick 2-0 Finn Harps
Mervue United 0-0 Longford Town
Athlone Town 0-0 SD Galway</blockquote>
20.38 – Sligo come close to opening the scoring. Romald Boco gets by his man and finds Quigley unmarked in the box. His header is straight into the hands of Delaney, however.
20.45 – Of the three 8pm kick offs, the only goals to have been scored have come from Wexford Youths, who lead Waterford 2-0. It remains scoreless here and Monaghan v Dundalk still hasn't witnessed a goal.
20.50 – <strong>GOAL! Shelbourne 1-0 Sligo (Philly Hughes)</strong>
Danny Ventre concedes a free-kick for following through with his challenge on Kavanah and is the first man booked. Hughes steps up and curls a cracking free-kick around the wall and into the corner. Tolka Park erupts.
20.58 – <strong>Half-time: Shelbourne 1-0 Sligo Rovers</strong>
Bit of drama right on the stroke of half-time. Quigley catches Kavanagh with a clumsy tackle and is shown a straight red to the delight of the home support. It's turning out to be a memorable night for Shels in their first game back in the Premier Division.
<img class="alignnone size-large wp-image-372165" src="http://cdn.thejournal.ie/media/2012/03/inpho_00578861-1-630x418.jpg" alt="" width="630" height="418" />
<em>Shels celebrate their return to the top flight. / ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan</em>
21.05 – <strong>Full-time: Drogheda United 1-2 Shamrock Rovers</strong>
Stephen Kenny has got his league campaign with Rovers off to a winning start as the final whistle has gone at Hunky Dorys Park. It was far from vintage from the Hoops but the three points are in the bag.
Wexford have also added a third against Waterford United.
21.11 – And the second 45 minutes has just begun. We've been told that the official attendance here at Tolka is 1,718.
21.14 – Sligo have hit the post two minutes after the restart. A Jason McGuinness header comes back off the upright and North scoops the rebound over the crossbar.
21.19 – Gavin Peers fails to keep his header from a Ross Gaynor corner down. 10-man Sligo are far from out of this yet though.
21.21 – Paddy Kavanagh heads just past the post.
21.25 – <strong>Goal! Derry 1-0 Bohemians (Stephen McLaughlin)</strong>
The Candystripes have taken the lead in the Brandywell, Finn Harps have narrowed the deficit to just one goal against Limerick, Longford are 2-0 up away to Mervue and Athlone are 1-0 ahead in their game with SD Galway.
21.41 – Here's full-time scores from the 7.45pm starts:
<blockquote>St Pat's 1-0 Bray Wanderers
Derry City 1-0 Bohemians
UCD 1-0 Cork City
Limerick FC 2-1 Finn Harps
Athlone Town 2-1 SD Galway
Mervue United 0-1 Longford Town</blockquote>
Joseph Ndo leaves the action for Lee Lynch meanwhile.
21.51 – Sligo bring Liam Martin on for John Dillon but are running out of time to snatch an equaliser. Two minutes of normal time remaining.
Result of the night looks like it's going to Wexford Youths, who are now 6-0 up at home to Waterford United.
21.59 – <strong>GOAL! Shelbourne 1-1 Sligo Rovers (Jason McGuinness)</strong>
Deflected cross needs to be tipped over by Delaney. Shels holding on…
Corner whipped in, headed away, Peers recycles and McGuinness is at the back post to head the equaliser in what is the last action of the night!
22.01 – <strong>Full-time: Shelbourne 1-1 Sligo Rovers </strong>
22.05 – So, a goal down, the Bit O'Red and new boss Ian Baraclough snatch a late point when it looked as though Shels would be enjoying the perfect return to Premier Division action.
22.06 – The remaining full-times are as follows:
Monaghan United 0-0 Dundalk
Wexford Youths 6-0 Waterford United
22.09 – We hope you enjoyed it as much as us. I'm off to warm up my feet with a stroll out of Drumcondra. It's been emotional… See you all again next week for more Airtricity League coverage!