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Seven new signings as Shelbourne begin their Euro campaign

IT will be a new look Shelbourne which plays Neuchatel Xamax in the first leg of their first round InterToto Cup tie at Tolka Park this afternoon (3.0), but manager Dermot Keely is not complaining.

With seven of last year's first team players not available due to injury, holidays or honeymoon, Keely has had to go scouting and has signed seven new players - one on a year-long loan, two on contracts and four on trial.

``It's very hard to buy a player in this country,'' says the Shels boss, ``so you look further afield, and when you do it's a gamble.''

Three of his new signings have National League experience - goalkeeper Steve Williams (ex-Dundalk), midfielder Neil Ogden (ex-Sligo Rovers) and striker Gary Haylock, who returns to Tolka after some years in the Irish League and in Greece.

The other newcomers, Mark Williams (ex-Shrewsbury), Rafael Andrade and John Powell (ex-Sparta Rotterdam) and Carel Van der Velden (ex-Rushden and Diamonds and Barnsley) are on trial, hoping to earn contracts for the new season.

Training started on May 30, which gave the players just a month's break, and for that reason Keely has allowed players take their holidays and will be releasing Richie Baker after today's game. ``Richie needs a rest before he plays for the U-18s in Sweden. He's been playing non-stop for a year.''

However, don't get the idea that Keely is a Euro sceptic with his eye solely on the domestic scene. No, after missing pre-season last year, he has made the most of the early start. ``Training four times a week you get to know people, it gives you a chance to have a look at them that you wouldn't normally have.''

He has also done his homework on Neuchatel, who have just finished their season. ``I have two videos of their games, they look a decent side, very good technically, but they have let four players go, so they will have a new-look side as well, it seems.''

Keely can still field a strong side which should look something like this: S Williams; Heery, Scully, Campbell, Gifford; D Baker, Van der Velden, Sheridan, R Baker; Haylock, M Williams.

Meanwhile IMG report that they are ``well ahead of target'' in their selling job for the FAI's Arena. Almost 2,000 club seats and 75% of corporate boxes have been sold and, apart from the sponsorships already completed, they are in final negotiations with interested parties for all the other sponsorships.

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The planning application will be lodged at the end of July or beginning of August and, provided there are no objections, the first sod could be turned by the end of the year. However, the more likely scenario is that objections will have to be overcome and this could postpone site-work. Regardless, IMG confirm that the Arena is on target to host its first international in the autumn of 2001.

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