Report: Christine Allen

Rovers were held to their first scoreless draw of the season in what was a physical and spirited Dublin derby against Shelbourne at Tolka Park.

313 spectators gathered in the Main Stand to watch the latest instalment of the Ringsend Derby play out at Tolka Park.

Both sides lined out unbeaten across all competitions, Rovers making no changes to the squad that drew 2-2 with Treaty United at Tallaght before the international break.

The contest was physical from the tip-off and Shelbourne set the pace in the opening minutes, pressing the visitors high and forcing Rovers to commit fouls.

Alex Kavanagh delivered a high ball on foot of one such foul, skipper Pearl Slattery leaping to meet it but couldn’t direct her header on target.

In between the sticks for the visitors, Amanda Budden was quick off her line to claim a swerving pass from Noelle Murray towards Keeva Keenan who gave chase, before the Hoops shot-stopper came to collect a free-kick from Leah Doyle with relative ease.

Jessica Hennessy and Shauna Fox were compact for the Rovers backline, while Scarlett Herron asked to adopt an unfamiliar role at left back.

The Hoops then started to find their groove, a shot from Zambra flashing wide and right of Amanda McQuillan’s post while Lia O’Leary’s effort was cleared by Slattery.

As the minutes ticked on the tempo of the game became frenetic, a yellow card brandished in the 17th minute to Maggie Pierce, both sides hustling to retain the ball.

Eoin Wearen’s side looked to have broken the deadlock in the 20th minute, an inviting ball from Alex Kavanagh controlled in the air by Slattery, who nudged it with one touch past Budden and into the back of the net – only to see the offside flag raised to deny the hosts a breakthrough.

The tide looked to turn once again in the 24th minute, a Stephanie Zambra header causing confusion in the box as all eyes followed its trajectory, Doyle attempting to clear the ball on instinct, Jess Gargan’s arm intercepting.

Skipper Áine O’Gorman stepped up without hesitation to place the ball on the spot, looking to add to her tally of three goals scored across all competitions in this campaign.

However, McQuillan dived low to save to keep the score at nil all.

Rovers regrouped and came close to scoring once more, Slattery doing just enough at the back post to muscle Hennessy off balance as her head connected with the ball, while Herron came close to netting her second goal of the season, her attempt to get a touch to Melissa O’Kane’s sweeping cross just falling short, a move which began with a deft back-heel pass from Zambra.

Joy Ralph had success on the right flank against Leah Doyle and this would continue in the 2nd half.

0-0 at the break.

After the restart, the two centre-backs for Shels were kept on their toes, Irish Under 19 internationals O’Leary and Ralph firing inviting balls from their respective channels across the goalmouth, the Hoops beating the home side to both first and second touches.

Shels looked to bide their time and hit Rovers on the counter, substitute Hannah Healy playing in Canadian Christie Gray as the number 23 sprinted down the left channel.

In a two v two chance for the home side, Gray opted to shoot straight at Budden, Jemma Quinn, who had snuck behind Fox and Herron, clenching both fists in frustration.

The Hoops had their best chance to score in the 67th minute when Ralph stretched to win a header and expertly controlled the ball with her chest, the number 19 racing inside the penalty area and luring the Shels backline who forgot momentarily to protect their back post, where O’Leary was now in position.

Ralph’s cross bounced awkwardly on the turf ahead of O’Leary who was unable to keep her shot low and under the crossbar.

With five additional minutes awarded the game once again sparked to life, O’Gorman earning a free-kick at the lip of the box, the skipper lofting the set piece towards the back post, yet Shels cleared their lines.

With two minutes of extra time left to play, The Reds almost snatched the win at the other end, Doyle firing a visionary ball deep into the final third, a miscommunication between Noelle Murray and Quinn allowing the ball to roll harmlessly into Budden’s gloves.

Seconds before the final whistle, Wearen’s side were awarded a free-kick at the edge of the box as Hennessy and Healy tumbled to the turf.

A triad in the form of Murray, Doyle and substitute Rachel Graham watched over the ball, the woman who holds the position of number 4 in Tolka’s all-time goalscoring charts across both senior teams opting for placement over power with the outside of her right boot – Murray’s strike proving too easy for Budden to collect.

And with that the final whistle blew at Tolka Park, solidifying a fourth successive draw for The Hoops this season, who remain unbeaten ahead of next week’s All-Island Cup clash with DLR Waves in Tallaght. Kick-off next Saturday 20th is at 4 pm.