In their final game of the season, the Reds know a win on Monday night against newly crowned champions Shamrock Rovers will secure Shels their Premier Division status for next season and a draw will most likely do likewise too.
Shelbourne have a two point lead and superior goal difference of three over Finn Harps, with Ollie Horgan’s side facing into a playoff unless Harps can beat Waterford at home and even then they must see how Shels get on against the Hoops.
Ian Morris’ men have already taken points off Rovers this season - drawing 0-0 in Tallaght Stadium back in August. A draw might well suit both teams - as the Hoops are looking to go through the season without a defeat.
The Shels boss, speaking to his club’s media team ahead of the match, said he is “looking forward to” what is set to be “a fantastic game” against a Shamrock Rovers side facing into their third game in six games.
Morris said Shels can “take confidence” in taking points off Rovers in Tallaght last time the sides faced each other.
“They’ve had a lot of games this week but no matter what team they put out they will play a similar style and look to win the game. They’ve got so much quality in their squad,” he said.
Thankfully from a Shels perspective their destiny is still in their own hands despite losing last time out in the league (2-0 away to Derry) which was followed by their disappointing elimination from the FAI Cup by Athlone Town.
“We didn’t perform in the last two games but I have been really pleased with the reaction and the preparation.We’ve no excuses going into the game tomorrow,” he said on Sunday.
“We’re the team that’s come up last year, the job was to stay up and we need to get a result tomorrow to stay in the league and we know that. We’ve come off a horrendous one last week. We’ve had extra days to prepare and there’s positives we can take going into it.
“Their manager Stephen Bradley has done a fantastic job this season. One of their goals is to not lose a game. They’ll have that mentality. By no means they’ll be weaker. It’s up to us to get a result.
Should the Hoops avoid defeat in Tolka Park on Monday, they will become the first League of Ireland side since the 1926/27 season to go through a league campaign unbeaten. They are also chasing a record for the least amount of goals conceded in a league season - which they will claim if they can get their tenth clean sheet in their last 11 league games.
However, they are facing a Shelbourne side desperate for points themselves and Rovers have had busy set of fixtures having been on the sidelines for nearly a month due to international call ups and COVID-19 hitting their camp.
After their enforced break Monday’s match will be their fourth in nine days and Hoops Head Coach admitted it is a very “tight” fixture schedule.
“You look at Ronan Finn and Aaron McEneff and they have played a lot of minutes but there are some who need it,” said Bradley speaking with extratime.com after Saturday’s 2-0 home win over Derry City. “Jack Byrne needs more games, Graham Burke needs more games.
“I don’t think anyone has any problems in the dressing room. We will have a look at the bodies on Sunday morning in training, do our video work and get ready for what will be a tough game as Shelbourne are fighting for points. It will be a tough game on Monday.”
The Hoops picked up their winners medals and the league trophy last Wednesday night after a scoreless draw against St. Patrick’s Athletic where they struggled. “I think we saw that against Pats the other night, we were a good bit short of where we have been this year.
“(Against Derry) on the back of the celebrations we’ve had, we saw we were back to our level. Some of the play was really really good. This team is at its best when it is playing regular games. We knew today we would be there and hopefully on Monday we can go again.
Graham Burke’s superb free kick was his eighth league goal of the season, drawing him level with Jack Byrne as Rovers’ top goalscorer in the Premier Division. The duo are joint second in the league goalscorer table - two behind Dundalk’s Pat Hoban.
“Graham scored a great goal. He had hit the post and missed a couple of other chances earlier but he has that real quality around the box.”
Referee: Neil Doyle
This is the first league game in Tolka Park between the sides for seven years. The Hoops beat Shels at Tolka Park in that last encounter on 30 August 2013 with Ronan Finn and Mark Quigley scoring for Rovers and Dean Kelly scoring for the Reds.
The last time to two sides met in competitive action in Tolka Park was in the 2017 FAI Cup second round. The Hoops won 3-0 with Graham Burke on the scoresheet along with goals from James Doona and Brandon Miele.
The Hoops haven’t lost a domestic game since a 3-2 loss to Dundalk in September last year - they are 24 games unbeaten domestically since then.
Shelbourne 4/1; Draw 5/2; Shamrock Rovers 8/13
2-0 away win
Injured: Greg Bolger, Rory Gaffney
Injured: Lorcan Fitzgerald, Georgie Poynton
Suspended: Luke Byrne
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