Manager: Owen Heary (outgoing) / Ian Morris (incoming)
Top Scorer: David O’Sullivan (15)
31 year old David O’Sullivan played in every one of Shels’ 27 league matches and scored 15 times. 11 of O’Sullivan’s strikes came at Tolka Park. The Dublin native netted seven times in matches against Athlone Town while he was on the mark on five occasions against his previous club Longford Town. O’Sullivan also scored twice in the EA Sports Cup.
Stadium: Tolka Park
787 v. Drogheda United (league game)
The biggest crowd of the season witnessed a pretty forgettable opening half but the game improved after the interval to match the bright June sunshine on Richmond Road. Dayle Rooney appeared to have done enough to give Shels all three points when he pounced on a David O’Sullivan pass to give Shels a 75thminute lead.
But the game ended in controversy as first, Alan Byrne was red carded. Then with seconds left, Dean Delany was adjudged to have fouled Mark Doyle in the box. Sean Brennan converted the spot kick as Delany, Derek Prendergast and Lorcan Fitzgerald were all booked for protesting the decision. Owen Heary was sent to the stands as Shels were left frustrated with a 1-1 draw.
1,281 v. Drogheda United (playoff)
It was a big crowd at Tolka Park for what turned out to be Shelbourne’s last game of the season. Despite the herculean efforts of nine-man Shelbourne, Drogheda United prevailed on penalties after a night of high-drama in the promotion play-off.
Goals from Sean Brennan and Chris Lyons put the Drogs into a two goal lead as Shels looked to have caved losing two players to red cards before the first half was even over.
However Adam Evans scored the equalising goal of the tie to bring the game to extra-time, and later on, penalties but it was to be in vain as the heroics of Paul Skinner and the composure of Doyle put the Drogs through to break Shels hearts at a bouncing Richmond Road venue.
Lowest Attendance: 521 v. Wexford
Ironically, just four days before the Drogheda league match, Shels ran out 4-1 winners over Wexford before a crowd of 521. A brace from Derek Prendergast was sandwiched by an early headed goal by Shane Farrell and a late Owen McCormack own goal while Dean Kelly’s 50thminute strike was scant consolation for the visitors.
Star Player: Derek Prendergast
The experienced defender was outstanding all season, playing a pivotal role in Shels’ frugal goals against average of 0.78 per league game.
Prendergast also popped-up at the other end with some vital strikes, including that double against Wexford.
The ex- Bohs, Athlone Town, Bray Wanderers and Drogheda player shored-up the Shels defensive line while delivering a constant threat from set pieces around the opposing penalty areas.
Shels must be hoping that the 34-year-old Prendergast will stick around for at least another season.
Best Young Player: James Brown
A product of the Shels’ underage system, 20-year-old Brown delivered many sterling performances in the senior shirt last season.
His probing crosses led to a number of goal assists, most notably for fan favourite James English’s strike which gave Shels the lead against eventual champions UCD in May.
The defender’s only goal of the season came in Shels’ impressive 3-0 win at St. Colman’s Park against Cobh Ramblers in May.
Brown also ‘scored’ in the ultimately abortive fixture against Wexford after which the Reds were awarded a 3-0 victory owing to Wexford fielding an ineligible player.
Best New Signing: John Ross Wilson.
Whilst top-scorer David O’Sullivan was the stand-out close season signing, defender John Ross Wilson delivered an excellent cameo following his July transfer from near neighbours Bohemians.
Wilson was an ever-present in Shels’ last 11 league games. The 19-year-old buttressed the Shelbourne rearguard that was a vital component in Shels’ run to the play-offs.
It was Wilson’s timely off-the-line intervention that denied Mark Doyle during extra-time against Drogheda that ensured nine-man Shels survived to that fateful penalty shoot-out.
What we expected they would do: 6th
Collectively, we predicted a sixth placed finish for Shelbourne. That was well wide of the mark. However, Mark Quinlan was justifiably somewhat more optimistic in his Shelbourne specific season preview. Read Mark’s opinion here.
What they actually did: Third
It was a classic case of so near and yet so far for Shelbourne for whom goalkeeper Dean Delany also had a very good season. Third place in the league table gave the Dubliners a place in the promotion/relegation quarter-final against Drogheda. 1-0 up after the away leg in United Park, Shels despite two red cards in the opening half of the second leg came from 2-0 down in the tie forcing extra time before losing on penalties.
Finn Harps then beat Drogheda but with Harps subsequently running out comprehensive winners against Limerick, it doesn’t stretch credulity too far to suggest that with a smidgen of luck Shelbourne could have been welcoming the likes of Dundalk, Cork City and age-old city rivals Shamrock Rovers to Tolka Park next season.
After impressive wins over Bray Wanderers and Drogheda, Shels reached the EA Sports Cup third round (that’s one round further than in 2017) before being trounced by eventual winners Derry City.
Shels made a tame second round exit to Longford in the FAI Cup (having lost at the same stage last year) but the Reds retained their Leinster Senior Cup trophy.
Victories over Athlone Town, Longford and Bluebell gave Shels a place in their second successive Leinster Senior Cup final. That was against St. Patrick’s Athletic at Tolka on September 28th. James English gave Shels the lead before Achille Campion equalised late on. Shels maintained their grip on the trophy with a triumph in the penalty shootout.
With an improved league performance (3rdfrom 4th) and another trophy on the books, Owen Heary could have been forgiven for making plans for next season. However, with the club deciding to move “in a different direction”, Heary’s two and half term as boss comes to an end with Ian Morris coming in (see here).
What they need to improve on for next year:
It is difficult to quibble with many aspects of Shelbourne’s performance during the 2018 league campaign. The Reds lost fewer games than anybody in the SSE Airtricity League First Division.
Owen Heary’s men boasted the best goal difference (+31) in the league. Shels conceded fewer goals (21) than any other team as they suffered only three losses all year.
Ultimately, it was the number of draws (11 in total) that cost the Drumcondra men a higher spot in the table. Five of those stalemates came in games where Shels had scored first so the killer instinct to take advantage of winning positions will be a key requirement for Shels to secure promotion next term.
The Reds are also thrilled to say Karl Moore is re-signing with the club for the 2019 season. @moorzD9 was a great addition to the squad midway through last season, and we look forward to having him back next year in Tolka Park.#WeAreShels pic.twitter.com/wQ6wdTHRe2— Shelbourne FC (@shelsfc) November 6, 2018