As a 5 year old my father brought me to see my first Shelbourne game. We travelled from Corrib Road in Terenure (my father working for Guinness and Corrib Road comprising “Guinness houses”). His father had been a “stoker” on steam ships and an avid “Reds Man”.
I travelled on the cross bar of my father’s bicycle to Milltown to see Shelbourne play Shamrock Rovers. The year was 1959. I do not recall the result of the game but I was hooked and knew from that day forth that “The Reds” were the good guys and “Rovers” were definitely the bad guys. Absolutely nothing has happened over the intervening years to make me change my mind.
I am grateful to my Dad for many things and supporting Shelbourne F.C. is one of them.
The first time I actually saw Shels play was on Sunday December 3rd 1978 at Tolka Park against Shamrock Rovers. It was bitingly cold that day and the score was 0-0. In truth it was a really dreadful game. But most of the games I had seen up to then were on television. That day in 1978 I witnessed the real thing, more passionate, more enduring than any television images of Mario Kempes, Kenny Dalglish or Kevin Keegan. I was hooked.
More than thirty years later I still go to Tolka Park. My Father still comes too. It is not always easy to be a Shels supporter. The Reds have had a higher proportion of tragedies than Eastenders, Coronation Street and Fair City put together. We have had good times too, thirteen League titles, seven FAI Cups and countless European adventures. Shels has worked wonders for my European geographical awareness.
Born in 1937, Chris Sands is a life-long supporter of Shels. He talks about the early history of Shels from its foundation in 1895 as a “Dockers team”, club rivalry with Shamrock Rovers in the 1940’s, the failure to purchase Shelbourne Park, and attending the Olympic Dancehall after matches. He also talks about his involvement with Shelbourne Supporters Development Group in recent years and his views on Ollie Byrne.
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David Kelly has been supporting Shels since the late 1960s. As a youngster, only a few of his classmates followed soccer as he went to a fee-paying school which was steeped in rugby tradition. He recalls matches at different grounds from Dalymount to Bray to Dundalk, and the football chants which used to be sung. David also talks about the different players he admired and also on different styles of management of Shels managers over the decades including Dermot Keely and Ollie Byrne.
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Rory Dwyer, born in 1932, is one of Shelbourne’s most celebrated centre forwards. He holds the current club record of 40 goals in a season in all clubs competition. He played his schoolboy football in Drimnagh, before signing for Shels in 1951. His wages were £3 per week, with an extra £1 if team won, and he also worked as a refrigerator mechanic. Rory talks about the Shels training regime, how injuries were treated, and the camaraderie between players during his playing days from 1951-1957. The memories he shares include playing in Iceland as a guest of Waterford FC (1953), winning the Irish Independent sports star of the week following his hat trick against Dundalk in 1954, and when he was wrongly blamed for missing a League of Ireland team meeting before a match against the Scottish League (1954).
Listen here [play time: 33:15 mins] or Download Audio (mp3) [file size: 15.2 MB. Right-click, save as…]