Shelbourne may not be a Premier Division side, but that didn’t hinder considerable interest in the vacant manager’s position at Tolka Park in late 2014.
As November drew to a close, Johnny McDonnell resigned his position to take the reigns at Drogheda United. Assistant manager Kevin Doherty wasn’t the obvious choice.
Speaking to Pundit Arena, Doherty said:
“I’ve been at the club all together between playing and coaching twelve or 13 seasons and I believed it was the right time to go for the job. Having said that, there were plenty of very experienced and successful applicants for the job so perhaps I was a bit surprised [that the application was successful].
“But I did know that at this time, I was the right man for the job. Luckily enough the chairman and the board agreed.
“It’s been great. It’s an amazing opportunity for me to manage the club that I love. It’s a tough job no doubt about it. It takes over your life a lot more so than when I was coach or assistant manager but it’s all worth it when we win on a Friday and I can see progress being made.”
Doherty’s first season in charge saw Shels go within touching distance of third-placed UCD with just a four-point margin separating the two neoteric sides. Doherty, a one-time Liverpool player, coupled with two stints at Tolka Park as a player as well as sojourns in Waterford, Longford and Bray, is positive ahead of the new season.
Doherty says that his side’s pre-season preparations have “gone well”.
“Our fitness levels look good. We haven’t had many injuries either, which is pleasing. Our games have been generally positive bar one so I’m happy with how it’s going.”
With the First Division gearing up to be as competitive as last year, there is no hiding from the realisation that the Drumcondra-based side will not graduate with ease if they are to attain promotion.
“Our squad is full of players that have come through our Under-19s,” says Doherty.
“And we have a strong schoolboy section which will hopefully continue to provide players for our Under-17s and Under-19s, and ultimately our first team.”
When asked if the energy and exuberance of a primarily young group of players would be enough to sustain a genuine title challenge, the Shelbourne boss points out that he has “brought in Aidan Collins and also Lorcan Shannonn, who have both won this league. Both are fantastic pros and I’m hoping their experience added to that of the likes of Daire Doyle and Gareth Coughlan can help us improve on last year. The reality is that with the budget we have we are going to be predominately a young squad but I have every faith in our young players and even last year’s experience will stand to them.”
Shelbourne open their account on Friday evening when they welcome Stephen Henderson’s Cobh Ramblers side, a short-term challenge Doherty is looking forward to:
“We know them very well from last year and have watched them a couple of times in pre-season. They have really improved their team with some excellent signings and I know Stephen will have them flying for Friday.”
When asked about the long-term goals for this Shels team, this is what Doherty had to say:
“I’m looking to improving on last year and there is an obvious favourite in the league this year and a number of very good sides, so it will be tough but I believe we will improve on last year.
“I think last year will stand to us all and hopefully we can manage to achieve our goals for this year.”