AUTHOR: Kieran Burke – @Kieran_B_Sport.
It will be all eyes on Shelbourne on the opening night of the 2022 League of Ireland season for a variety of reasons. Principally, one of Irish football’s all-time greats and two-time English Premier League Champion, Damien Duff has opted to make the Reds his first stop on the long and treacherous road that is senior football management. Secondly, the Dublin derby between Shelbourne and St.Pat’s on night one is the first live televised game of the new campaign while finally, this is a new look Shels team despite the fact the Drumcondra outfit won the First Division at a canter under Ian Morris last season.
Despite his superstar status, Duff wasted little to no time in rolling up his sleeves and getting down to the dirty work of gutting last seasons squad in order to put his own shape and stamp on how his Shels team will play with the likes of Ryan Brennan, Ally Gilchrist, Georgie Poynton, Michael O’Connor, Denzil Fernandes, Yoyo Mahdy and Eric Molloy all heading for pastures new.
Upon review of the players brought in by Duff, the new Shels boss appears to have gone for young players with huge scope for development with Aodh Dervin and Aaron O’Driscoll arriving as the standout players from the Longford team relegated last term, while Conor Kane and Jack Moylan are hugely exciting talents in their own rights.
With so much change, and a clear lack in squad depth compared to some of the more established sides in the division, a steady season with a mid-table finish at the end of it would be a more than acceptable outcome in Duff’s first season in charge. Scoring goals may be Shelbourne’s biggest problem next season, Sean Boyd has arrived from Finn Harps and has never been prolific, mainly due to injuries while another ex-Harps man now on the books at Tolka Park is Dan Hawkins, another striker with a less than prolific strike rate.
The signing of Aaron O’Driscoll from Mansfield Town could prove to be the best business any team has done in the window while Conor Kane, and Luke Byrne have plenty of experience at this level while Aodh Dervin will add some steel in the centre of the park so defensively they should be ok which could be enough to bail the Duffer out of trouble should his team not fire in front of goal this season.
BTS PREDICTION: 7th
STAR PERFORMER: Aaron O’Driscoll (Shocked a top 3 side didn’t go in for this fella).
ONE TO WATCH: Aodh Dervin (Another player who could have a huge future in the game).