The status quo is about to change at Shelbourne. The deal that will see a former director of Shamrock Rovers, Andrew Doyle assume ownership of the SSE Airtricity League club is about to be completed.
Before the deal is done credit should go to the custodians of Shels for the last decade and beyond, without Joe Casey there would undoubtedly be no club. He steadied the ship at the most trying of times and cleaned up a mess left by the Celtic Tiger over indulgences of the Ollie Byrne era.
Doyle’s contribution will not be limited to a quick cash injection; those close to the takeover say he’s going to bring about a fresh approach and a new structure to the administrative level of the club. He’s started this process with the appointment of Dave O’Connor as CEO.
A 26-year-old doesn’t tend to make it to the position of CEO, outside of bedroom based start-ups. O’Connor though brings a wealth of experience on the pitch and off of it that is matched by few his age. He played with UCD where he also earned an arts degree before going in to get a masters in geography.
The defender took a step away from his playing career this season after spells with UCD, Shamrock Rovers and Limerick FC. After making his League of Ireland debut 7 years ago he went on to make 148 appearances.
This appointment is an exciting one, it shows eagerness from Shels to evolve and try and bring innovation to the club through the infusion of youth. I text a friend of mine - a lifelong Shels fan - to gauge his reaction to the news. He is a guy with a positive disposition, until Shels is broached, then that dissipates.
It’s not his fault, it’s just he has held out hope for so long he is exhausted, “if you don’t expect anything from Shels you won’t be disappointed” was how he summed up his mood at the start of the season.
He wasn’t overly positive about this news. That is understandable because Shels fans have a natural perversion for pessimism, it tends to be the default reaction to many seemingly good news stories that emerge from the club. Most fans have been around long enough to know a false dawn when they see one. In truth they haven’t’ had have many reasons to be cheerful in recent years.
Dwindling attendances and the utter desperation of the first division will do that to people, their reservations are natural but the time is right to take a gamble. The risk of doing damage to the club is negligible because for more than a decade Shels have stagnated, barely surviving in the graveyard of Irish football. An existence so grim why wouldn’t you put it all on the line to escape it?
With a new owner and young and vibrant CEO perhaps change can come with their clear ambitions to grow the club, a new era where they don’t just survive, but thrive can be heralded.
The club are already taking steps with many positive developments in recent weeks, the imminent appointment of a new CEO, the development of strategic partnership with Dublin City University and the addition of Seana Cooke to the club’s Board of Management.
The back and forth continued with my friend, his replies got shorter. He is tired, fed up of the infighting and false dawns, browned off of hoping for better. In the end his main concern and the thing stopping him from being positive about it was a ‘what if’.
What if it fails?
What if it doesn’t?