| 15°C Dublin

Tolka gets taste of big time again

Byrne: Dundalk game the result of a lot of hard work


Cork City’s Daire O’Connor is tackled by Luke Byrne of Shelbourne. Pic: Sportsfile

Cork City’s Daire O’Connor is tackled by Luke Byrne of Shelbourne. Pic: Sportsfile

Cork City’s Daire O’Connor is tackled by Luke Byrne of Shelbourne. Pic: Sportsfile

Being a Red has not been easy, the trials and tribulations of an affection for Shelbourne a test of nerves and loyalty over the last few years, a chunk of misery with scarce pockets of joy since the club's implosion in 2006.

But that red flag will get to fly high this evening as top-flight football returns to Richmond Road for the first time since 2013, Shels at home to champions Dundalk.

The current crop of Shelsmen enjoyed the start to the new season, a 1-0 win away to Cork City on the opening day last week, and while taking on champs Dundalk will be more of a test of how Shels will fare on their return to the top flight, even being here is a welcome change from the long years of misery in the second tier.


"There are lot of people at Shels who have worked hard for the club over the last few years and tonight will be a bit of relief for them, the club being back in the Premier," says defender Luke Byrne, now in his second season at Shels after spells with city rivals Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers.

"There was a fear 12 months ago that we wouldn't get out of the First Division, having been in it for so long, but it's a culmination of a lot of hard work, good decisions, that we can really enjoy tonight," says Byrne, stressing this is no overnight success.

"We're not there yet in terms of what people like Andrew Doyle and Dave O'Connor want to see from the club, but we are getting there. You see stuff like the club's social media work, the academy, having the women's team," Byrne says.

"It's being part of a bigger picture and that has continued this season, though we're more under the spotlight now we are in the Premier."

For Byrne, a Premier Division game in the Dublin 3 venue has a sense of nostalgia.

"Tolka Park was the first stadium I went to, my dad took me to see Shels play Cork back when they were fighting it out for the league," says Byrne.

"I'm from just up the road in Howth, I can't claim to be a big Shels fan but I loved the atmosphere the first time I went, it was my first taste of live football as a young kid, a big crowd.

"We have a taste of that again now, ticket sales are good for the Dundalk game, it looks like it could be sold out and it's been a while since that was the case in Tolka.

"Winning away to Cork was a great start to our season, though it wasn't the best of games. We didn't play to the best of our ability and we know we can play better."