Waterford United 0 Shelbourne 1
The Blues had to win their three remaining games against Kildare County, UCD and this game against Shelbourne to keep any chance of a top-three position alive but they came up against a goalkeeper who turned in a truly incredible display.
Dean Delaney, who played with Waterford during the 2006 season, produced a series of saves that lit up a game which was played at a blistering pace all through. This was without doubt the best league match played at Kilbarry this season, but that did not help lift the gloom and indeed regret that engulfed the RSC when the full-time whistle was blown.
Waterford had 14 attempts at goal compared to Shelbourne’s two, but nevertheless they lost one-nil to the Reds for the third time this season. It was hard to take, but at least the home side went out fighting and if the majority of the squad can be retained and extra fire-power brought in up front, then manager Stephen Henderson can lead the Blues back to the Premier League.
The opening ten minutes were frenetic. Shelbourne scored what was to be the only goal of the game on 11 minutes. David McAllister picked out Tony Griffiths on the right. There appeared to be little danger when Griffiths took control of the ball but he somehow managed to squeeze a shot under the body of the Waterford goalkeeper Michael Devine from an acute angle.
Dean Delaney produced the first of his stunning saves on 13 minutes. Alan Carey fired in a free kick from the left which was touched on by Vinny Sullivan. It looked as if the ball was destined for the net but Delaney somehow managed to claw the ball away with his left hand.
A minute later John Kearney hammered in a rasping free kick from the right but again Delaney dived brilliantly and touched the ball around his upright at the expense of a corner kick. The Waterford team, which showed five changes from the team which lost to Sligo Rovers in the FAI Cup semi-final (Kevin Burns, Dave Warren, David Grincell, Kevin Waters and Stephen Grant made way for Michael Devine, Alan Carey, Gary Dunphy, Willie John Kiely and Paul Walsh) continued to press forward at every opportunity and Vinny Sullivan was inches wide with a low shot from the edge of the penalty area after 23 minutes.
Paul Walsh set Graham Cummins free on the half-hour mark but Delaney dived low to prevent Cummins from scoring an equaliser. Willie John Kiely turned and shot shortly afterwards but he saw his effort go over the crossbar.
Graham Cummins did head the ball to the back of the net just before half-time following a right-wing cross from Alan Carey but the assistant referee claimed that the Waterford striker had moved into an offside position.
Delaney displayed his class once again on 63 minutes. Vinny Sullivan went off on a mazy run down the left before picking out Willie John Kiely who was only six yards from goal. The Abbeyside man struck his effort superbly but Delaney arched his back and turned the ball over his crossbar in stunning fashion.
The Shelbourne defence were rocking at this stage and when Paul Walsh picked out Kenny Browne from the right after 71 minutes a goal looked on, but the central defender’s header went inches over the crossbar.
A fine move involving Dave Warren and Seamus Long saw the latter just miss the target with an angled effort from the right. Waterford’s night of misery was summed up three minutes into stoppage time when Graham Cummins almost broke the crossbar from three yards after a wonderful move involving three players.
The last action of the game saw the magnificent Delaney defy logic by diving to his left to tip away a rocket of a shot from John Kearney. It was an extraordinary performance by the former Waterford netminder in what was an extraordinary match.
Waterford United: Michael Devine, Alan Carey, John Kearney, Kevin Murray, Kenny Browne, Seamus Long, Gary Dunphy, Graham Cummins, Willie John Kiely, Paul Walsh, Vinny Sullivan. Subs: Dave Warren for Kiely (76 mins) Stephen Grant for Dunphy (83) David Grincell for Walsh (86).
Shelbourne: Dean Delaney, Michael Synnott, Robbie Hedderman, Alan Keely, Damien Brennan, Mark O’Brien, David McGill, David Cassidy, Tony Griffiths, Anto Flood, David McAllister. Subs: David Crawley for Keely (43 mins), Derek Doyle for Cassidy (73) Colin O’Brien for Griffiths (82).
Referee: Graham Kelly (Cork).