Shels early business will see Reds favorites for 2019 title

Article by Kieran Burke - @KieranBTS

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It’s not even two months since Shelbourne FC last kicked a ball in anger, bowing out of the First Division play-offs in the most dramatic of circumstances against Drogheda United on penalties, however already the famous old Dublin club are looking good to not only improve on 2018’s near miss but rule the rest of the second tier and gain promotion back to the elite level of Irish football for the first time since 2013.

The story of Shelbourne’s busy off-season began with the Tolka Park outfit announcing that Owen Heary would not be given another crack at promotion in 2019 with the former Sligo Rovers boss replaced by retiring Bohemians midfielder, Ian Morris. Having initially approached Drogheda’s Tim Clancy, Morris represents a new breed of fresh rookie managers that have been slowly but surely making the leagues old guard obsolete. Clancy, Morris, Neale Fenn and Collie O’Neill are all fine examples of the new faces and ideas that League of Ireland clubs are finally giving a platform and opportunity too with the usual suspects on the domestic merry-go-round of out of work managers finding their phone calls rarer and rarer as the seasons go by.

Even before the arrival of Morris, who worked as Bohemians underage development officer in recent years, there was a sense of new found optimism in the air around Drumcondra with fresh investment off the field allowing the club to attract some big names on it towards the tail end of last season. While such financial backing was probably to the detriment of Owen Heary in the end, the additions of Karl Moore, Paddy Kavanagh and Greg Moorehouse certainly added a sense of X-factor to a Shelbourne side threatening to be forgotten in the competitive capital football scene.

The “Reds” first big signal of intent this off-season came with the capture of Dan Byrne from City rivals Bohemians. Making twenty-two top-flight appearances for the “Gypsies” last term, many will see the central defenders decision to drop down a division as a surprise but there is certainly a feeling among many League of Ireland followers that it could be a very short stint in the so called “graveyard division” for Dan Byrne.

Title winning sides aren’t put together overnight, just take a look at Dundalk’s recent glories and you will find a core group of players that have slowly been added to as the seasons have gone by. Shelbourne’s re-signings in recent weeks could prove to be just as important as any of the big names snapped up by new manager Ian Morris with the likes of Dean Delaney, James English, Karl Moore, Lorcan Fitzgerlad, Derek Prendergast, Dayle Rooney & John Ross Wilson offering a fine blend of youth and experience but above all else quality.

Despite already having a fantastic arsenal to select from it often takes a so called marquee signing to really stoke belief not only among the supporters but inside the dressing room and “Shels” have played their card beautifully in this regard with the unbelievable and unexpected return of Conan Byrne to Tolka Park. With St.Patrick’s Athletic moving to day time training sessions, legendary League of Ireland wing-wizard Byrne, who is a primary school teacher by trade, quickly became the “Reds” number one transfer target this off-season and despite reported interest from a number of clubs, including division rivals Longford Town, Conan Byrne will once again don a “Shels” strip in 2019 having previously played for the club in 2011 & 2012.

With season ticket and merchandise sales already up and running alongside a much improved social media and online presence, it seems the fresh injection of finance and ideas at Shelbourne Football Club could help guide the “Reds” back towards its former glories at the top table of Irish football.