Tuesday, July 18, 2006

RED'S LETTER DAY

The sun hasn't had much cause to shine on the Chez Shels in recent times, but it bestowed its warm glow on a sunny Tolka Park last night. The Dublin club, reviled and hated in equal measures by the majority of Irish football followers may have reached a crucial turning point in their season.

Upon entry to the Richmond Road citadel last night each punter was handed a blank white envelope. I opened it as a child would a stolen chocolate bar, hoping to find the 'Footballers For Sale' price list within. I fancied having Jason Byrne cut my grass as I supped from his boot telling him he'd missed a bit because he was trying to be too elaborate.

But 'twas not to be; not yet anyhow. The SHELBOURNE SUPPORTERS DEVELOPMENT GROUP have let their masks slip and presented themselves to the world. No natty costume, no sexy sidekick or trick car...just plain talking. the world of Ollybourne FC appears to be amenable to the well intentioned aims of the SSDG; and this must be seen as a massive step forward for fans of the club.

The club has formally announced news of their ongoing discussions with the interested parties regarding a possible move to the Morton Stadium in Santry. This el fan hopes that everything works out for the Reds.

In my unvaunted opinion Olly Byrne and Shelbourne have been the scythe that has helped to consign some of the more miserable aspects of League of Ireland football aside. Yes, the club are up to their nasal hairs in debt; much like Leeds United were once Peter Ridsdale had followed his dream. Leeds, however were pursuing bigger clubs; Shels pushed forward to become the biggest club; hauling others along in their wake; taking us to where we are now. Not Nirvana, but not yet Kurt Cobain.

There's still a heartbeat, hopefully Olly's recently promised rabbit shows up with millions to sustain the Reds still further. Then there's the football...

Pat Fenlon has retained a dignified and calm public demeanour as the walls were falling down around him; now his players sit astride the league table and anyone looking up cannot but admire their balls. Most goals scored, a single defeat, one game in hand - all that manure has produced some fine red roses.

Waterford had the pleasure of hoisting the fortnightly paid players to the summit. A very hot day preceded a very hot evening as the sun beamed it's rays onto the immaculate surface.

The opening half was turgid! Waterford's travelling support seemed to have come to offer sympathy, loyalty, and a silent vigil. At one stage the drummer struck up for a Shels free kick! The heat kept the pace down as the blue shirts remained rigidly behind the ball. Bobby Ryan's twinkling toes wide on the right were a constant menace to their defensive plans. Then, as befits any relegation battler, luck deserted United. Ryan was infield, left of centre, in stoppage time. The ball dropped to him, the defence discussed half time refreshments and Ryan scored only his 2nd league goal for the Reds hot on the heels of his first. And a finer pair you'll be hard pushed to find. Waterford had almost reached the Promised Land; but this game was wailing for a Shels goal.

With the new stand providing shade, and Waterford needing a goal, the second period showed a distinct improvement. The visitors became slightly less defensive, but without Reynolds, Chambers and new signing Hopkins their task was hopeless. Shels had almost too much time on the ball; it was as if they were expecting to be tackled, harried; but it didn't happen. Waterford began, and continued, like a side which wonder's what score they'll be beaten. And eventually they were; soundly.

They offered nothing up front; Daryl Kavanagh flashed. Against lesser sides with their best XI, maybe. But they've a lot of ground and morale to make up, and that's just the supporters! Mike Kerley has a massive job on his hands to turn this ship around; methinks they've already struck the iceberg.

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