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Shelbourne returned to So Hotels Women's National League action with a comfortable two-goal victory over a spirited Limerick at Tolka Park.

A brace from Alannah McEvoy helped Shels secure all three points after Noelle Murray opened the scoring early on. Cara Griffin scored twice in the second half for the Shannonsiders before Isibeal Atkinson made sure of the win late on.

Fresh from their WNL Cup success, the Reds went into the game as searing hot favourites – with their visitors still reeling from a difficult defeat against Galway WFC at home last time out.

The hosts started the game brightly, and ought to have scored through Jessica Ziu, but the highly-rated youngster was unable to make her chance pay – blazing over the bar at a drizzly Tolka Park.

While they were in control of the opening stages of the game, Shelbourne nearly coughed up the opening goal, but makeshift shot-stopper Noelle Murray was on hand to smother the danger in the absence of Kate Mooney.

Dave Bell’s side soon made their dominance pay as Murray scored the opening goal of the game from distance. Her controlled strike was too high for Limerick ‘keeper Karen Connolly who was unable to keep the effort away from danger.

Shels almost made it two minutes later with Jamie Finn and Alex Kavanagh combining in midfield – with Kavanagh forcing Connolly to fumble the ball but the advancing Ziu was unable to pounce on the opportunity to score.

The Richmond Road outfit were dealt a blow however following the forced withdrawal of Emily Whelan with a nasty looking head injury midway through a stop-start opening period.

Murray, growing in influence, created a gilt-edged chance for the hosts to put daylight between the sides but Ziu was once again thwarted by the quick reflexes of Connolly in the Blues goal.

However, the first half was not all one-way traffic, with Limerick showing that they were no pushovers – but they did concede a second minutes before the break.

Jamie Finn cut inside to cross to find the free McEvoy at the back post who left Connolly rooted to her spot as Shels manager Bell saw his side take a two-goal lead into the break.

The Reds continued to press and probe well in the early stages of the second half, with sub Rebecca Cooke forcing a brilliant save by the alert Connolly from close-range.

However, the hosts were not to be denied and through McEvoy, they grabbed their third of the day. Kavanagh fed in the lively forward who slotted home with minimal fuss.

Shelbourne very nearly made it four moments after, going close with Jess Gargan and Murray but it was the visitors who pulled a goal back through Cara Griffin

The youngster glided past two defenders before firing her effort home with a powerful drive as the Blues received a glimmer of hope heading into the final 15 minutes.

Shels did however have opportunities to extend their lead in the closing stages of the but their lead was brought back to the bare minimum when Griffin slotted home on the break.

However, fears of a late equaliser were allayed when Atkinson fired home at the back post despite suspicions of offside to secure all three points for the hosts – keeping the pressure on top of the table Peamount for the time being.

Shelbourne: Kate Mooney; Jessica Gleeson; Jamie Finn, Jessica Gargan, Rachel Graham (Jennifer McDade, 73), Alex Kavanagh, Pearl Slattery, Jessica Ziu (Isibeal Atkinson, h/t); Alannah McEvoy, Noelle Murray, Emily Whelan (Rebecca Cooke, 24).

Limerick WFC: Karen Connolly; Marie Curtin, Shannon Parbat, Anna Shine; Meg Brennan, Lauren Keane, Mora Shine, Cara Griffin, Laura Kavanagh (Shauna Rooney, 70), Mairead Teehan, Eimear O’Brien (Gillian McKenna, 56).

Booked: Gillian McKenna (69)

Referee: Paula Brady.

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