Bohemians produced an extraordinary comeback at Dalymount Park last night to progress into the second round of the FAI Cup.
Trailing 2-0 to First Division leaders Shelbourne on 81 minutes, the Gypsies looked set for an early exit from the competition. However, after Keith Buckley initially offered them hope in a frantic finale, Danny Mandroiu grabbed a quick double to spoil the Shels party right at the death.
Bohs suffered semi-final replay heartache at the hands of Cork City last October, but will now have aspirations to go at least a step further in 2019.
In the absence of top-scorer Ciaran Kilduff — who was named on the bench — former Cobh Ramblers striker Jaze Kabia led the Shels attack. Though he was left isolated during the early exchanges, it was a similar case for Bohs’ Andre Wright at the opposite end.
Gypsies winger Danny Grant appealed for a penalty when he went to ground on seven minutes, only for referee Robert Harvey to book him for simulation. Despite enjoying more possession, Bohs were struggling to break down a watertight opposition defence.
Keith Buckley angled an enticing diagonal pass towards Mandroiu just past the half-hour mark, but Shels netminder Dean Delany was first to the ball. It was largely going according to plan for the compact visitors, and when the half-time whistle eventually sounded, the sides remained deadlocked.
Following a first halfdevoid of chances, there was a significant increase in attacking intent on the resumption.
Wright headed against the post off a precise Bohs cross, before Conan Byrne spurned a glorious opportunity after Kabia released him on goal.
This was Byrne’s final contribution of the night as he was subsequently replaced by Kilduff on the hour mark. Within two minutes of his introduction, the Kildare native calmly slotted past James Talbot at a left-hand angle to send the away supporters into raptures.
This consequently forced Bohs supremo Keith Long into action, and he immediately replaced Conor Levingston with the more adventurous Keith Ward. They were almost back on level terms straight away, but Delany superbly tipped over a Buckley shot on the turn.
Delany previously enjoyed a three-year spell at Bohs and he once again denied his old charges when Grant was picked out after finding space on 73 minutes.
The Gypsies continued to ramp up the pressure inside the final quarter, but this left them vulnerable to Shels counter-attacks.
They were duly punished nine minutes from time, when was the ball was worked out wide to Shane Farrell on the right. He unleashed a stunning strike into the far corner of the net, which edged Shels a step further to a magnificent victory.
The dismissal of Kabia for an off-the-ball incident left them hamstrung in the closing stages though, and Buckley gave Bohs a lifeline with an outstanding curled finish. The home faithful had suddenly rediscovered their voice, and there was pure elation when Mandriou’s long-distance drive in the 88th minute took a wicked deflection on its way to the net.
Although the prospect of extra time was looming large, Bohs had other ideas. After a goalmouth scramble found its way to Mandriou in stoppage time, the 20-year-old midfielder kept his composure to snatch a dramatic winner.
BOHEMIANS: Talbot; Lyons, Finery, Barry, Leahy; Levingston (Ward 64), Buckley; Wade-Slater, Mandroiu, Grant (Tierney 82); Wright.
SHELBOURNE: Delany; McKenna, Prendergast, L Byrne, Fitzgerald; Brennan, Quinn (English 90); C Byrne (Kilduff 60), Farrell, Rooney (Noone 77); Kabia.
Referee: R Harvey (Dublin).