Cumann Peile Shíol Bhroin / Shelbourne Football Club
- City: Drumcondra, Dublin / Droim Conrach, Baile Átha Cliath
- Founded: 1895
- Ground: Tolka Park (4,400)
- Nicknames: Shels; The Reds; The Real Reds; The Auld Reds
- Colours: All red kit with white trim.
- 2023 League: League of Ireland Premier Division
- Club Website: https://shelbournefc.ie/
- Club Twitter: @shelsfc
- Best League Finish: 1st in the LoI Premier Division (13 times)
- Best FAI Cup Finish: Winners (3 times)
- League of Ireland/Premier Division
- Champions (13): 1925–26, 1928–29, 1930–31, 1943–44, 1946–47, 1952–53, 1961–62, 1991–92, 1999–2000, 2001–02, 2003, 2004, 2006
- League of Ireland First Division
- Champions (2): 2019, 2021
- Irish Cup
- Winners (3): 1905–06, 1910–11, 1919–20
- FAI Cup
- Winners (7): 1938–39, 1959–60, 1962–63, 1992–93, 1995–96, 1996–97, 1999–2000
- League of Ireland Cup
- Winners (1): 1995–96
- League of Ireland Shield
- Winners (8): 1921–22, 1922–23, 1925–26, 1929–30, 1943–44, 1944–45, 1948–49, 1970–71
- LFA President’s Cup
- Winners (8): 1929–30, 1939–40, 1947–48, 1960–61, 1993–94, 1995–96, 1998–99, 2002–03
- FAI Super Cup
- Winners (1): 2001–02
- Leinster Senior League
- Champions (12 record): 1902–03, 1903–04, 1906–07, 1907–08, 1908–09, 1910–11, 1915–16, 1916–17, 1918–19, 1923–24, 1942–43, 1943–44
- Leinster Senior Cup
- Winners (21): 1899–1900, 1900–01, 1903–04, 1905–06, 1907–08, 1908–09, 1912–13, 1913–14, 1916–17, 1918–19, 1923–24, 1930–31, 1945–46, 1948–49, 1962–63, 1967–68, 1971–72, 1993–94, 2010, 2017, 2018
- FAI Intermediate Cup
- Winners (1): 1932–33
- Best League Finish: 1st in the Women’s National League (3 times)
- Best FAI Women’s Cup Finish: Winners (2 times)
- Women’s National League
- Winners (3): 2016, 2021, 2022
- FAI Women’s Cup
- Winners (2): 2016, 2022
- WNL Cup
- Winners (2): 2016, 2017
- Dublin Women’s Soccer League
- Winners (1): 2015
Shelbourne Football Club / Cumann Peile Shíol Bhroin is one of the most successful teams in both men’s and women’s Irish football, having won the men’s league thirteen times and the women’s league three times. The club is based in the northern Dublin suburb of Drumcondra / Droim Conrach, and currently plays its home games at the 4,400-capacity Tolka Park / Páirc na Tulchann. The ground is situated on the northern bank of the River Tolka (the second largest river in Dublin) and is only a short distance away from the home of the GAA, the iconic Croke Park / Páirc an Chrócaigh stadium.
As mentioned previously, Shelbourne is one of the most successful clubs in men’s Irish football having won the League of Ireland and its Premier Division thirteen times and the FAI Cup on seven occasions. Founded in 1895, they initially played in the all-Ireland Football League, with their best league finish being second in the 1906-07 season. However, they won the IFA Cup on three occasions, being one of just three clubs to have won both the IFA Cup and FAI Cup. Following the partition of Ireland, Shelbourne became one of the founding members of the League of Ireland in 1921, and won their first league championship in the 1925-26 season, picking up another two titles in the next five seasons, as they became one of the strongest teams in Ireland during the early years of the league.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the club picked up most of its trophies during its long history. Shelbourne won their first league title in thirty years when they won the 1991-92 LoI Premier Division, and then won four FAI Cups throughout the decade, including a double-winning season during the 1999-2000 season. Between 2000 and 2006, ‘The Reds‘ became the dominant force in Irish football winning five league titles, achieving two runners-up spots, and finishing no lower than third place. They also became the first Irish side to reach the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League in 2004. Unfortunately, the fortunes of the club have suffered dramatically since that golden period due to huge financial problems that saw them demoted from the Premier Division in 2007. As a result, Shelbourne has spent most of its recent history competing in the LoI First Division. Nonetheless, it seems as if the club is slowly on the rise with two First Division titles in 2019 and 2021 which gained them promotion to the top flight on both occasions. The Reds will compete in the Premier Division for the second consecutive season for the upcoming 2023 campaign having finished in the safety of seventh position during the 2022 season.
The origins of the Shelbourne women’s team originated from the Welsox FC side which was founded in 1971. They won the FAI Women’s Cup in both 1992 and 1994 before the club was absorbed into the Shelbourne structure in 1995. Although the side was initially disbanded in 2002, the women’s team was then refounded in 2007, and subsequently merged with Raheny United‘s senior women’s team in 2015. This merger allowed the club to compete in the Women’s National League – the top league in the Irish women’s football pyramid. Since joining the league, Shelbourne has become one of the more successful teams in the league, winning their first league title and FAI Women’s Cup in 2016, before adding a further two titles in 2021 and last year in 2022. The Reds confirmed their status as the premier team in Irish women’s football by clinching their second FAI Women’s Cup in 2022 to produce a second double-winning season in their history.
To talk about the men’s and women’s teams of one of Irish football’s most successful teams, we spoke to the excellent Kev Doyle from the Twitter account Reds Stats. He is a Dublin-based Shels supporter who collates all the data from all Shelbourne games and produces interesting statistics on the club. To find out more about Kev’s work, you can find his social media accounts below:
- Twitter: @RedsStats
Q. Firstly, how did you decide to start following and supporting Shelbourne?
It was the summer of 2002 just after the FIFA Men’s World Cup I was nine years old and that World Cup was probably the first time I sat down and watched the game intently. I have memories of games before then but didn’t watch them as religiously. So my Dad’s team (Manchester United) were in town to play a local side so he brought me along I fell in love more or less instantly with the ground (Tolka Park). A few weeks later at the start of the school term, a former player of the club toured my school giving out free schoolboy/girl season tickets for Shelbourne and that was the start of it. I’ve been a season ticket holder ever since!
Q. Who would you say is Shelbourne’s best player, and coach/manager of all time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
I can only really answer for those who played for or managed the club in my lifetime, but here goes:
Best Male Player: Wesley Hoolahan.
[Attacking midfielder who played most of his career at Norwich City and made 43 appearances for the Irish national team between 2008 and 2017.]
No explanation is needed really as the magician from Portland Row was a special talent. Sadly, he has been ignored internationally for far too long.
Best Men’s Team Manager: Dermot Keely
[Managed the club between March 2007 and May 2010.]
Perhaps a controversial choice here but the man returned to the club when the club was on its knees in 2007 following demotion for financial difficulties and pulled a squad together in just two weeks. That opening day of the season is one of my favourite memories. The roar that happened when we scored late on, having thought the club would be dead a few weeks prior, will never be forgotten.
Best Female Player: Pearl Slattery
[Defender who has been with Raheny United & Shelbourne since 2010.]
The embodiment of everything that you want in a leader on and off the pitch, one in a million.
Best Women’s Team Manager: Noel King.
[Former Republic of Ireland senior women’s team manager, men’s under-21 manager, and interim senior men’s team manager who took charge of Shelbourne women’s team in 2021.]
There has only been a handful of managers but we’ll go with the incumbent manager who has achieved back-to-back league titles, and back-to-back cup finals, with the second sealing the double this year. He also managed the first victory in European competition on foreign soil for the women’s side of the club this year.
Q. Of the current squad, who would you say is the best player at the club and why?
Men’s Player: Shane Farrell
The boy can play anywhere and his improvements over his time with the club have been staggering particularly under the current manager, Damien Duff, reign. He is the longest-serving senior player currently in the lads’ squad and is still in his early 20s. It also helps that he’s from just up the road from where I grew up.
Women’s Player: Jessie Stapleton
There is no limit to how bright Jessie’s star can shine. She’s not yet 18 years old but is experienced and composed well beyond her years [playing as a defender/midfielder]. A full international already with her eye on securing a plane seat to the FIFA Women’s World Cup held ‘Down Under’ this summer.
Q. Who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent at the club?
Men’s Player: Jad Hakiki
[17-year-old attacking midfielder]
An underage international who has been plagued by injuries since breaking into the 1st team in 2022. When he hopefully recovers to full fitness, watch out, because he is reminiscent of a young Wes Hoolahan.
Women’s Player: Hannah Healy
Aside from Jessie who I’ve already described above, Hannah is also an underage international and still, I think I’m right in saying, just 15 years old. She had impressed me whenever I saw her play for the national league-winning Under-17 side of 2022 in her box-to-box midfield role.
Q. Who would you regard as Shelbourne’s biggest or historical rivals?
Different generations of fans will have different answers for this one, but for me, it has always been Bohs [Bohemian FC]. They are our closest geographical rivals, who we have always had ding-dong battles with to decide league champions when I was a kid growing up.
Q. Looking at the club’s history, what would you say has been the best game, result, or performance in your opinion?
Has to be the nil-all draw with Deportivo La Coruña in the final qualifying round 1st leg of the 2004 UEFA Champions League. A side that, in the previous year had been semi-finalists of the UCL, was held by little old Shelbourne.
Has to be the Cup final of 2016. In search of an unprecedented domestic treble, the side went to Lansdowne Road and dispatched their opponent, Wexford, 5-0 on the day, achieving the only treble in the club’s history.
Q. What do you think of the situation in Irish league football currently and are there any improvements you would like to see happen?
While the League of Ireland still has many faults surrounding the facilities and fan engagement, it is still our own league and we must make do with what we have. I would still take it 100 times out of 100 over the cash cow the league across the Irish sea has become which, unfortunately, thousands of Irish supporters still flock to on weekly trips whilst shunning our product at home. In my opinion, the league is certainly the most financially stable it has been during my lifetime when, for a period of time, it seemed like we were losing a team every other year from the league for some reason or another.
Q. How would you describe the current performance or state of the club? How do you think this past season has gone?
In truth, the club has been in the doldrums for much of the past 15 years but finally, the light at the end of the tunnel has emerged in the last few years since Damien Duff and the current ownership group’s arrival. I haven’t known it to be so buoyant since the heady days of the early ’00s when league titles and European runs were an annual occurrence. Those feats are still a way off but an almost forgotten word in the Reds faithful’s vocabulary has re-emerged: “optimism“. Optimism for the future exists in all strands of the club, which I’m fortunate enough to observe, be that in the underage boys or girls’ sides who I watched both claim national league honours last year, right up to our double-winning senior women’s team and the FAI Cup finalist men’s senior side.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the club?
The friendships that have been built up over the years. In truth, the football played isn’t the be-all and end-all, it’s the men and women that I’ve grown up with since that 9-year-old boy first clambered up those stadium steps, to the 20-odd years later when I’m seeing these same faces now bringing there sons and daughters to games and passing the magic that is Shelbourne Football Club on for generations to come. A love that hasn’t been dimmed through the passage of time or the ordeals that we have faced in the time in between. I’m fortunate enough to be able to repay this incredible gift the club has given me by offering hours here and there by working in the club shop or through my weekly articles in the match day programme. Similarly, I can share my obsession with numbers by compiling stats for the club and assisting in honouring the milestones that the stars out on the pitch reach.
Is the club faultless? No, but that’s what adds to the mysticism around the club for me.
Has the club broken my heart? Yes. On too many occasions to mention here.
Would I change any of it though? No!
So you ask what’s the worst thing? After 21 years of being around the club, I’ll let you know when I find out.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of Shelbourne FC?
To return to the glory days of the past, obviously, but to do so in a sustainable manner unlike previous times, and not to stick everything on red only for the roulette ball to land on black. Finally, above all else, to preserve, protect, and upgrade our home, the magical place that is Tolka Park, for generations of Reds to come.
A massive thank you to Kev from the Reds Stats for answering our questions on the League of Ireland Premier Division and Women’s Premier Division side Shelbourne FC. Remember you can find their excellent social media accounts in the links towards the top of the blogpage.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.