A hat-trick from Dinny Corcoran and one each from Philip Gorman and Ray Scully powered Shelbourne toward a vital victory in a somewhat one-sided encounter at Tolka Park on Friday evening.
Despite trying their very best throughout, Salthill were always second best, and Shels seem to be coming into good form at just the right time in the season.
The game had started at quite a frenetic pace, with both sides looking quite willing to play an open and fast attacking style. Shels had the first real opening of the tie when an excellent cross from the right-wing by Scully found Corcoran in plenty of space on two minutes, but he couldn't direct his shot on target and the chance was gone.
Corcoran was a major threat for Shels early on though, and the same could be said of Salthill front man Ciprian Straut, whose hard work and endeavour was causing plenty of problems for the home side's defence. Shels always looked the more likely of the two teams to score though, and so it was after ten minutes when a David Cassidy corner on the right was expertly headed home by Gorman from a distance of 12 yards.
This score really settled down Shelbourne, and they really should have doubled their lead three minutes later when Cassidy was put clean through on goal, but he dragged his shot well wide of the target, much to the delight of Salthill custodian Adrian Faherty. Things were looking quite ominous for Salthill even at this early stage but, in fairness to the Drom-outfit, they did battle hard, and the onslaught that was expected after Gorman's opener didn't quite materialise at first.
Indeed, Shelbourne goalie Dean Delany had to be on his toes on 33 minutes, when a strike by Devon full-back Patrick Quinlan had him stretching to save, and he needed a second attempt to gather a shot that had the potential of ending up anywhere. Shels still looked in a comfortable position however, and there was always a feeling that Alan Mathews' side had the ability to increase their lead before the break.
This is exactly what they did just six minutes before half-time when Corcoran was fouled in the box by Brian Geraghty, with the former stepping up to finish to the right corner of the net, via the hand of the unlucky Faherty in the Salthill. This strike meant that Shels held a 2-0 lead going in at the break, to leave the Drumcondra in a perfect position to push on for the three points that would greatly boost their promotion prospects.
Any chance Salthill had of getting something from this game all but vanished three minutes into the second period when the excellent Corcoran drilled home with a magnificent right-footed from a tight angle 20 yards out. This was a real pity for Salthill, as they had competed quite well for certain periods of the first half, but Corcoran is a hard man to pin down in this kind of form.
When a game is shaping up to a commanding win like it was for Shelbourne in this one, it is usually a good idea to give a few fringe players a run, and this was exactly the mindset of Mathews as he brought on Mark Leech and Stephen Paisley, for Mark Hughes and Gareth Whelan respectively, with 25 minutes to go. This brought some new energy to the Shels side, and they continued to go looking for more goals, which would further enforce their superiority in this game.
Salthill were defending quite gallantly against some immense pressure from Shels though, and they were working hard to hit their opponents on the counter-attack whenever the opportunity presented itself. In fact, they almost scored with 80 minutes gone on the clock when Straut got up for a free header in the box, but Delany was alert to gather the ball comfortably.
Shels could turn it on any time they wanted to though, and they got their fourth goal of the night two minutes later when a Cassidy free-kick from 35 yards was turned home by Corcoran to complete his hat-trick. Scully then added a fifth in injury-time to give Shels a much-deserved victory, which will give them plenty of confidence heading into the final few weeks of the season. Salthill, on the other hand, will have their work cut out if they are to win their relegation battle against fellow Galway side Mervue United.
Shelbourne: Delaney; Quigley, Ryan, Whelan (Paisley '65), Byrne; Scully, Shields, Cassidy, Hughes (Leech '65); Gorman, Corcoran (O'Brien '75).
Subs not used: Farrell, Williams.
Salthill Devon: Faherty; Quinlan, Geraghty (Murray '84), Barbu (Conlon '25), O'Leidhinn; Horgan, McBrien, Porter (Kennedy '75), Gilmore' Collins, Straut.
Subs not used: Burke, Murray.
Referee: Sean Grant (Wexford).
Extratime Man Of The Match: Dinny Corcoran (Shelbourne).
Daire Walsh began reporting for Extratime in 2009, when he covered Kildare County's games in the League Of Ireland First Division. He currently reports on games involving the league's Dublin sides and also Bray Wanderers. You can contact Daire at firstname.lastname@example.org.