North Dublin’s Tolka Park witnessed potent displays by local lad Jake Mulraney, Englishman Sean Clare and teenager Connor Smith to underpin Hearts’ pre-season friendly defeat of Shelbourne.
In the first match of a mini Irish tour, the Edinburgh side were 2-0 ahead by the interval against the League of Ireland Division One leaders thanks to goals by Steven MacLean and Mulraney. Clare, Craig Wighton, Dario Zanatta, Smith and Christophe Berra, below, scored in the second half to confirm the one-sided nature of this affair.
Mulraney was back on familiar territory having grown up in Dublin’s Drimnagh suburb. He tormented his opponent, John Ross Wilson, throughout the first half and was given a rest after the interval.
Clare had assisted Mulraney’s goal and then claimed one himself direct from a free-kick in the opening minute of the second half. Smith, the promising 17-year-old midfielder, scored one and set up two despite only entering the fray as a substitute on the hour mark.
Shelbourne manager Ian Morris rested several key players as his part-time outfit are in the middle of their season and aiming for Premier Division promotion. Those who did feature would certainly have noticed the difference against full-time opposition.
Tolka Park was lit up by some pre-match sunshine on a mild summer’s night in the city’s Drumcondra district. The ground’s traditional main stand, complete with rusting iron roof and view-restricting pillars, contained a mix of Irish natives and travelling fans.
Bobby Burns was a late replacement for Aaron Hickey in Hearts’ starting line-up and they began with fair gusto. Clevid Dikamona glanced Clare’s 15th-minute corner wide of target before the midfielder’s effort from Andy Irving’s short free-kick was saved by the outstretched leg of Shelbourne goalkeeper Dean Delaney.
Mulraney looked quick and dangerous on the visitors’ left as he endeavoured to impress locals in his home city. The first goal arrived via the opposite flank, however, on 23 minutes. Shelbourne centre-back Flavio Marku slid in for a challenge on MacLean but succeeded only in prodding the ball through for Wighton. He quickly reversed it into MacLean’s path for a first-time finish into the bottom corner past Delaney’s despairing dive.
Mulraney got the goal he badly wanted in front of his compatriots on 34 minutes to put Hearts 2-0 ahead. A partial clearance by the home defence was instantly returned by Clare into the path of the winger, who had momentarily switched to the right. He steadied himself for a composed right-footed finish which nestled in the same corner as MacLean’s strike.
There was consternation in the Scottish camp soon after as Shelbourne struck the woodwork. A clearance by Hearts goalkeeper Colin Doyle went straight to midfielder Shane Farrell on the left. His impromptu strike at the empty goal bounced up and off the face of the crossbar.
Irving’s 20-yard free-kick curled narrowly over the crossbar before the interval but the anticipated third goal did not take long to arrive. A minute after the break, Clare’s left-sided free-kick landed in the far corner of the net after evading everyone inside the penalty area.
Wighton made it four. MacLean returned the first-half compliment with a cutback to his young strike partner, who slotted home from ten yards. Substitute Zanatta finished the fifth from Smith’s threaded pass before the teen put his own name on the scoresheet. His right-sided cross flew straight through the Shelbourne defence and into the net.
Berra’s header from Smith’s cross on 85 minutes rounded off a good evening’s work for Hearts. Indeed, referee Rob Rogers took pity on the Irishmen and blew the final whistle at that stage rather than make them last the full 90.