Meet Our Opponents: Shelbourne FC
(first published in the March 2009 Shelbourne programme)
Shelbourne Football Club have a proud tradition dating back to well before the beginnings of the League of Ireland, and are the most successful club in the country in recent years, having won the title five times this century.
Founded in Dublin in 1895, the club joined the Irish Football League in 1904, which was then an all-Ireland competition, before becoming founder members of the League of Ireland in 1921. Over the years Shelbourne have amassed 13 league titles to their name and are one of just three clubs to have won both the IFA and FAI Cups (Bohemians and Derry City are the others), as well as being Ireland’s most successful club in UEFA club competition.
It is in recent times, though, that the club has had its most successful spell. Dermot Keely brought Shels a historic first ever League and FAI Cup double in 1999/2000, securing the league with a 2-0 win over the Blues, and clinching the Cup in a replay against Bohemians. The following season though saw Shels let the league title slip away on the last day. The 2001/02 season was dogged in controversy as title challengers St Patrick’s Athletic were docked nine points for fielding an unregistered player, before having them restored. The league eventually docked them fifteen points when it emerged a second unregistered player had played five games. This all lead to Shels claiming their tenth league title. Under new manager Pat Fenlon Shelbourne won back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004, and went on an amazing European run in 2004, getting to 90 minutes from the group stages of the Champions League before losing out to Deportivo la Coruna.
Shels won their most recent title in 2006 on goal difference from Derry City, however after financial problems during the season, Pat Fenlon resigned and the vast majority of players left. Shels withdrew from the 2007 Setanta Cup and before the start of the new league season had their Premier Division licence revoked by the FAI’s First Instance Committee. The club’s majority shareholder Ollie Byrne passed away in August 2007, and Joe Casey was installed as Chairman. Former manager Dermot Keely was brought back in and assembled a squad just in time for the club to take its place in the 2007 First Division. Last year they were bankers to win the title but a last minute goal by Limerick 37 in Tolka Park gave Dundalk the league and the accompanying promotion.
League Championships: 13 (1925-’26, 1928-’29, 1930-’31, 1943-’44, 1946-’47, 1952-’53, 1961-’62, 1991-’92, 1999-2000, 2001-2002, 2003, 2004, 2006)
FAI Cups: 7 (1939, 1960, 1963, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000)