There is a renewed sense of optimism around Tolka Park ahead of Friday’s opening league fixture against Finn Harps.
This is despite a change of management, the loss of Dylan Connolly and Adam McDonnell to Ipswich Town as well as results not going Shels’ way in pre-season.
Last season saw Shelbourne come agonisingly close to promotion. Results towards the end of the season didn’t go their way, culminating in Shels slipping from the top of the league to third place. They then lost the 2nd/3rd play-off to Galway, who went on to beat UCD in the promotion/relegation play-off.
Those around the club will want to see the team put last season behind them and concentrate on returning to the place where they believe they belong – the Premier Division.
First Three Games
Shelbourne start the new season at home against Finn Harps. They only managed to win once in four attempts last season against their opponents from Donegal, drawing the other two and losing once. They will look to start their season on the right foot at home ahead of two away trips to UCD and Cabinteely.
Doherty will be looking for a minimum of six points out of nine in these opening games. Nine from nine is a strong possibility but it may be hampered with the EA Sports Cup fixture against Drogheda in between the Harps and UCD games.
There are plenty of players to keep an eye on in this side. Familiar faces like Gareth Coughlan and Greg Murray will be stalwarts this season. Expect fan-favourite Philip Hughes to add something to the team as well.
Key Young Player
After some interest from Everton, Ryan Robinson is still part of this Shelbourne side. It will be interesting to see what kind of performances the young right-back turns in this season and if it will catch the eye of clubs on the other side of the Irish sea.
GK: Greg Murray, David Ryan, Jack Brady
DEF: Simon Dixon, Ryan Robinson, Adam O’Connor, Darragh Gannon, Sean Heaney, Evan Osam, Alan Kehoe, Paul Andrews
MID: Jordan Keegan, Jake Donnelly, Gareth Coughlan, Dylan McGlade, Aaron Robinson, Daire Doyle, Colm Crowe, Craig Walsh, Conor Earley, Manuel Rodriguez
FW: Mark Sandford, Alan O’Sullivan, Philip Hughes
Paul Andrews (Drogheda United), Stephen Confrey (Shamrock Rovers B), Colm Crowe (UCD), Simon Dixon (O’Devaney Dunard FC), Daire Doyle (Drogheda United), Conor Earley (Greystones), Sean Heaney (Shamrock Rovers – Loan), Philly Hughes (Bray Wanderers), Alan Kehoe (Shamrock Rovers B), Evan Osam (Shamrock Rovers – Loan), Manuel Rodríguez (Free Agent), Dave Ryan (Drogheda United), Mark Sandford (Shamrock Rovers B), Craig Walsh (Bohemians).
Dylan Connolly (Ipswich Town), Gary Dempsey (North End United), Lee Desmond (St Patrick’s Athletics), Lee Duffy (Drogheda United), Lee Murtagh (Firhouse Clover), Sean Russell (Limerick), John Sullivan (Crumlin United), Darren Tinnelly (Parkvilla FC).
Pundit Arena Expectations
While the latter part of last season derailed for Shelbourne, this writer expects the squad to still challenge for the title. Manager Kevin Doherty has acknowledged a tough season ahead with many competitive teams in the league.
The team though has a good mix of experienced and young players and that should help the Tolka Park side compete for promotion, either automatically or through the play-offs.
EA Sport Cup: first round
FAI Cup: third round
Former player Jimmy O’Connor holds the record for being the fastest hat-trick scorer. He scored three goals for Shelbourne in 2 minutes and 13 seconds versus Bohemians at Dalymount Park on November 19th, 1967.
Conor McManus, Pundit Arena