Shelbourne merge men's and women's operations with both sides to play out of Tolka Park in 2019

Wed, Mar 13 2019

Shelbourne captain Pearl Slattery lifts aloft the Women's National League Cup in 2017. Credit: Peter Fitzpatrick (ETPhotos)

Shelbourne will drop the epithet ‘Ladies’ and play their Women’s National League games in Tolka Park this season as they underline the parity of esteem for the women’s and men’s games.

The Reds follow in the footsteps of Derry City, whose team in the Northern Irish Premiership took the same action of removing ‘Ladies’ from their name last month.

Shels, who confirmed the appointment of former Ireland under-17s boss Dave Bell as coach, played their games out of the comparatively inaccessible AUL Complex in Clonshaugh last year.

However, the home FAI Cup semi-final against Peamount United was held in Tolka and, despite losing that game 2-1, the decision has been taken to move all home games to a central location.

Season tickets will now be valid for both League of Ireland and Women’s National League games, while all boys and girls in the club’s underage system will be offered free season tickets.

The club’s kit deal with Umbro and sponsorship arrangement with DCU will be included on both Women’s National League and League of Ireland kits.

The club’s social media channels – until now separated into men’s and women’s streams – will be integrated with senior and underage teams represented under the one banner.

As widely rumoured, the club have announced Dave Bell as manager in place of Mark Leavy, who stepped down at the end of last season but remains heavily involved in the club behind the scenes.

Bell led Ireland under-17s to the European Championships in 2017 before being succeeded by senior international manager Colin Bell.

Dave Bell watched his side hit the top of the table with a 10-1 opening-day victory over Kilkenny United, with Ireland international Jessica Ziu hitting a hat-trick.

Alex Kavanagh and new signing Jessica Gargan scored two each, while Alannah McEvoy, Emily Whelan and Rebecca Creagh were also on target in Thomastown.

"We have appointed Dave Bell as Manager of our Women's National League team,” Shelbourne CEO Dave O’Connor said on the club’s official website.

“Dave has previously managed Ireland's team at the WU17 European Championships in 2017 and is well-respected within football circles.

“We're confident that Dave is the right person to realise the full potential of our WNL squad, which includes a number of Senior, U19 and U17 internationals. Dave will be assisted by Pat Behan.

"We're also delighted that our U17 WNL side will continue to be managed by the successful management duo of Laura Heffernan and Karen O'Connell.

“Having won the inaugural U17 National League, Laura and Karen will be looking to repeat that success in 2019.

“Shelbourne FC supports the 20x20.ie campaign, an initiative aimed at increasing media coverage of women in sport, female participation at all levels, and attendance at women’s games by 20% by 2020.

“Our WNL team will wear a ‘20x20’ arm patch in support of this initiative for the coming season."