Shelbourne FC were formed in 1895, by James Rowan and six others in the Dublin fishing village of Ringsend, among his associates were John Bury Patrick Finn Felix Wall and Michael Wall.
Shelbournes first home ground was a piece of waste land out beside Lansdowne road and it cost them just £6 to rent for a year. It didn't take Shels long before they became a major part of the working class of Dublin with most people following themselves or Bohemians.It was from Ringsend that the first support came and it was from there now biggest rivals Shamrock Rovers.
Clearly the Shels-Bohs tussles from those bygone days lent a special flavour to the contact whenever the to teams met (and it still does). But the rivalry between Shels and Rovers was something else but it never had the passion of say Celtic/Rangers or Liverpool/Man Utd.But there was times that the Ringsend lads could of thought the bigger clubs like Arsenal and Spurs a thing or two about what a derby match means. Shels had the edge by being the older club they were the only professional club in the country until Bohs shed their amateur status in the sixties. In fact Shels were paying they're playing staff since1905and were rewarded with a string of Leinster senior cups and Irish Cups in these early years. The first success came for Shels after only a year in existence in the 1896/97 season when they won the Leinster Junior League and Cup title.
In the next few years Shelbourne having joined the ranks of the leinster senior league, they won the leinster senior cup with a 1-0 win over a small club called Freebooters FC in the 1900 final. The cup was retained the following year with a 2-1 win over arch rivals Bohemians. Football in Ireland at this time was a thirty-two county affair. Upon joining the league in 1905, Shels made it to the final of the Irish cup, loosing 3-0 to Distillery. However, the following year they set the record straight with a 2-0 success over Belfast Celtic to lift the cup. This made Shels the first Southern team to win the IFA (Irish Football Association) cup, and went on to two more victories in the competition, in 1911 and 1920. By this stage, the club had its own facilities in place at Shelbourne Park, and were one of the founder members of the League Of Ireland, hence severing all ties with the IFA.
Shelbourne went on to mark the inaugural season with the capture of the Shield Trophy. In they're first cup game, Shelbourne continued their success from their last IFA cup game, with victory over Belfast side, West Ham. They went out that year to the eventual winners St. James Gate. The following season saw Shelbourne as firm favourites for the cup. Players such as the legendary "Boxer" Foley, who had won the cup 3 years previously wanted to get their hands on their first cup in the League Of Ireland but Belfast's Alton Town ensured that did not happen, beating the Reds 1-0. Shelbourne once again reached the final in 1925, but this time, were beaten by their biggest rivals, Shamrock Rovers in front of 23,000 in Dalymount Park. A year later, Shelbourne became league champions, with two points to spare over their Ringsend Rivals.
Shels topped the league again in 1929 and 1931, but the cup still eluded them. However, Shelbourne lost their league status, for the first and only time, in 1934. They were accepted back in to the league two years later and eventually won the cup in 1939. The sixties was a great decade for Shelbourne. Having one the league three times since the last cup success (1944, 1947 and 1953) Shelbourne started the sixties by winning their second ever FAI cup final in 1960.
Two years later they added another league championship, and finished runners up in the cup final. The following season saw the cup back with Shels again. The sixties also saw Shelbourne land the Top Four Cup, the Dublin City Cup Winners Cup twice, the Presidents Cup, and two Leinster Senior Cups. Unfortunately, the success of the sixties could not be carried through to the seventies, which was one of the worst times for Shelbourne. They lost a lot of influential players to English clubs such as Ray O'Brien and Manchester United's legendary goalkeeper, Paddy Roche. They also had a devastating defeat to Home Farm in the cup final of 1975which meant that Home Farm became the first amateur team to win the cup in 40 years. From then on Shels went into a deep gloom.
There were severe doubts that the club would survive at all. The seventies and Eighties were bleak years as the club struggled against relegation and ultimately fell in to the first division at the end of the season 1985/86. At the end of the Eighties, things started to look up for Shels. They moved out of Harold's Cross and into Tolka Park, where they would be ground sharing with Home Farm. The Reds were to later buy out Home Farm and have Tolka all to themselves. However in 1997 and 1998, Shamrock Rovers played there after they had to leave the RDS.
Rovers now play in Morton Stadium in Santry, but are moving to Tallaght. Shelbourne had to wait 30 years before winning a league title, but that wait ended in 1992 under the guidance of Pat Byrne. In 1993 Byrne guided Shelbourne to their first cup glory in 18 years, he was then amazingly sacked in 1993 and Eamonn Gregg took over. In November 1994 he was also sacked, after Shelbournes severe slide down the table. Englishman Colin Murphy (now Cork city manager) took charge and got Shelbourne to the cup final in 1994, but again Shels were only runners up, Murphy left Tolka shortly after to become manager at Notts. County.
The subsequent vacancy was enough to tempt Damien Richardson out of football retirement and he was appointed manager at the start of Shelbourne's centenary season. It wasn't long before he ha brought back the traditional Shelbourne style of flair, which had been missing under Murphy's direct long ball style. Richardson never won the league for Shels but he did win a league cup in 1995 and two FAI cups, the first in 1995 against the league champions, St.Pats.
Shelbourne must have feared yet another cup final defeat, after goalkeeper Alan Gough was sent off in the first half and Pats took the lead with 15 minutes left. However, Tony Sheridan, an Irish under 21 international, rescued the game with a splendid strike. Shelbourne went on to win the replay and also took home the cup the following year after beating league champions for that year, Derry City. The following year, Shels again reached the cup final, but Cork City defeated them to again leave Shels as cup runner-ups.
Richardson resigned shortly after. Former Home Farm manager, Dermot Keely, took over and his first game in charge was a European cup game against Scottish giants, Glasgow Rangers. Shels defied all the odds to open up a three-goal lead, and hence gave the league a lot of credit. The following season was to be a historical one. Shels one the league for the first time since 1992 and also the cup, the first time the double had been done since Derry won it in 1989. It was the first time in they're one hundred and five-year history that Shelbourne had managed to land the double. It was fitting that one of the oldest clubs, and one of the founder members of the league, were the first team to win the league and cup in the new century, a proud moment for all the fans who were present at the league winning match in Waterford and the cup final replay in Dalymount Park.
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