In the first of a brand new feature this season on ‘Between the Stripes’ we hear the views from the other side of the stadium as opposition fans give their views on upcoming meetings with Longford Town. Throughout the 2017 campaign we aim to have a supporter from each of Longford’s upcoming opponents give us their own unique preview ahead of the match against LTFC. As well as hearing the thoughts of rival fans we will also learn the background story of these supporters and their aspirations, dreams and frustrations throughout the LOI season. First up we hear from one of Shelbourne FC’s most articulate and equally passionate supporters, Aidan Geraghty. – @Aido1985
RIVAL VIEWS – SHELBOURNE FC V LONGFORD TOWN – OPENING WEEKEND 2017
As The Reds kick off their 122nd season, and fourth consecutive one in the graveyard, disagreement is definitely the dominant mood around Dublin 3. Disagreement over on the pitch expectations, disagreement over plans for the club’s future and disagreement over how to deal with grievances towards those entrusted with the stewardship of the institution of working class Dublin that is so central to our lives.
I’ll get the off-pitch issues out of the way first, so I can get onto the positive, on-the-pitch matters later on and finish this article with the optimistic outlook with which I sat down to write it.
Back in October, as you all know, the club released a statement announcing that we would leave Tolka Park – the ground we have called our home for most of the last 60 years – in favor of Dalymount Park, the ground our most hated rivals have called home since 1901. Although this was a bitter pill to swallow, I think it’s fair to say that most “Redsmen” and “Redswomen” have reluctantly accepted that it’s the only show in town. What p*ssed people off was a section of the club’s statement that said, and I quote:
“Thanks also to the various DCC Councillors who, urged on by our supporters’ groups, advanced our case to be part of the redeveloped Dalymount. Last but by no means least, the Club would like to thank its neighbours on Richmond Road and its Drumcondra environs for tolerating the inevitable inconvenience that a football club can on occasions bring to a neighbourhood.”
Supporters took two issues with this section. Firstly, the falsehood that supporters’ groups lobbied Dublin City Councillors for the club to be part of the deal. Of the four supporters groups – Briogáid Dearg, Reds Independent, The 1895 Trust and the SSDG, only the latter took no official stance on the issue and the other three were vocally opposed. At an open meeting for supporters in December, the Board of Management acknowledged that the information they gave was incorrect and apologised.
Secondly, a large section of supporters resented the notion that the club is or was an “inconvenience” on the community in which it plays. Any residential community should feel privileged to have Ireland’s second most successful football club on its doorstep and should be ashamed that it was as apathetic to the club as it was. The Board also agreed that this was sentence was phrased badly.
On the 5th of November last, the 50th day since the club announced the move, Reds Independent (RI) called for a boycott of all matches in which Shelbourne is entitled to any percentage of the gate receipts, and a boycott of all other forms of financial support for the club. RI didn’t call off the boycott after the December meeting, insisting the Board must clarify, through the same medium that it made the original statement, that no supporters’ group lobbied in favor of the move.
Now, onto less dreary matters. Owen Heary returned to the club as manager half-way through last season. His appointment was a popular one as Owen is our record appearance maker having donned the red shirt in 274 league games. His legendary status at the club didn’t mask the shortcomings of last year’s squad, though. We were too easily beaten in games and once we went 1-0 down we were almost certain to lose. In my opinion, the team lacked leadership. Owen seems to have rectified that by bringing in experienced heads like Dean Delany, Derek Prendergast and by re-signing Adam O’Connor who is entering his fifth season with the first team despite only being 22.
I interviewed Dean Delany earlier today (although it won’t be published until the Waterford game in March) and he said that Owen’s priority was to have a solid back four to let our technical players go and express themselves.
Some players Longford fans are bound to be familiar with, apart from the above mentioned, are Boccer Bayly (I’m setting the over/under on his red cards this season at ten), Niall Lanigan and James O’Brien who won the First Division with Athlone in 2013, and Lorcan Shannon who had a spell in your neck of the woods.
We won all three pre-season friendlies – 1-0 against Bohs, 2-1 against Pats and 1-0 against Derry. We also won our first competitive game of the season, against Wexford in the Leinster Senior Cup. We were 4-0 up at half-time and dominated the first half, but then shut up shop in the second half and they got two goals back, both from 12 yards out.
Our pre-season expectations both from fans and the media have been a bit all over the place. When the outright market opened, we were the longest odds to win the league at 40/1. Then we beat “Bohs” 1-0 and moved into 25’s, and after beating Wexford last week we moved into 12’s. Realistically, we can’t compete with yourselves and Waterford financially, but we have the experience in our squad that means we might gel quicker than either of you and hopefully keep that momentum going.
I think the safe prediction for our league finish would be third, but we could just as easily win the league or be as bad as we were last season. I’d like to wish yis the best of luck for the season. My Grandad is from Rhyne in Killoe, so I’ve no bad feeling towards your club, except for the fact that Alan Mathews is your manager! If you finish second behind us, I’ll be happy enough.
Aidan Geraghty – Shelbourne fan – @Aido1895
Biography: Growing up on the Northside, I’ve been a Shels fan since my uncle brought me down to Tolka for the friendly against reigning European champions Man United in 1999, and we beat them 1-0 thanks to Shero – who was my hero as a kid.
I was spoiled growing up as a Red. We’ve won five league titles, two FAI Cups and had unforgettable European journeys in my lifetime. The last eight or nine years have shown me what life is like for 99% of football fans, though (excluding your average barstooler who hasn’t ever experienced what it’s like to be a football fan, of course).
We’ve only had two seasons in my lifetime in which we didn’t have something to play for towards the end of the season, 2007 and last season. But most of the exciting seasons have ended in heartbreak – whether it be relegation, losing a Cup Final or conceding a last minute goal to deny us promotion. The latter has happened a few more times than I care to remember!
Anyway, SFC is what gets me through the week. Any normal person would laugh at that but standing in the freezing cold and pissing rain watching LOI football every week disqualifies any of us from being normal, so I’m sure most readers will understand where I’m coming from. I recently turned away from my chosen career path, journalism, and chose to study to be a teacher instead. I’m sure that has decreased my earning power significantly but watching the Reds every week is my priority, so a nine to five job is necessary.