Manager: Noel King
Stadium: Tolka Park
Players in: Amanda Budden, Rachel Baynes (Galway), Saoirse Noonan (Cork City), Sophie Lenehan (Sion Swifts), Jessica Stapleton (Shamrock Rovers), Rebecca Creagh (Bohemians), Chloe Mustaki (Charlton Athletic).
Players out: Isibeal Atkinson (Celtic), Jess Gleeson, Kate Mooney (DLR Waves), Rachael Kelly, Rebecca Cooke (college), Amanda McQuillan, Jenny McDade, Niamh McLaughlin (released).
Extratime.ie Key Player: Saoirse Noonan
It has been all flux with Shelbourne in the pre-season as a change of manager has seen Noel King take over from Dave Bell and a large turnover in playing personnel.
The most eye-catching of Shels’ signings has been Saoirse Noonan from Cork City, the striker deciding to take a year out from GAA to concentrate on getting into the Ireland international team.
That ambition has taken her to Shels, so narrowly denied the title for the past two seasons and determined to bring the trophy back to Drumcondra after a five-year absence.
Put simply, Noonan is the archetypal striker for this league, possessing pace, power, technical ability and a clinical eye for goal.
She scored for fun in a mid-table City side but will flourish with the likes of Jessica Ziu, Noelle Murray and Ciara Grant supplying her from deep – the golden boot is not an unrealistic expectation.
Extratime.ie One to Watch: Jessica Stapleton
Jessie Stapleton is a name that has been on the radar for quite some time – she was called into the home-based Ireland squad by manager Colin Bell at just 13.
Still only 16, the defender played ahead of her age group with Cherry Orchard boys for years before making the move to the Women’s National League with Peamount in 2018.
2021 is the season that the decorated underage international will come into her own at senior level, however, and she steps into a defence marshalled by one of the WNL’s all-time greats in Pearl Slattery.
How they did last season:
Shels suffered heartbreak for the second year running as they were edged out once more by Peamount United by the slenderest margin.
This time, a 3-1 defeat to the Peas in Greenogue decided the destination of the league title, a game that, had the Reds won, would have guaranteed them the gong.
All seemed to be going to plan as Emily Whelan fired Shels in front early in the second half but the late Peamount flurry ensured the champions retained their crown.
Nine wins, a draw and two defeats (both to Peamount) saw Shels finish five points short but with 37 goals they were the league’s second-highest scorers with goals coming from all over the park.
FAI Cup: First round
Shels bowed out at the quarter-final stage to eventual double winners Peamount United, losing out to an early Eleanor Ryan Doyle strike.
What to expect this season:
Nothing less than another title charge will do for Shels, having invested in former Ireland boss King and some eye-catching signings, including Stapleton, Noonan and international Chloe Mustaki.
King has chosen to trim his squad and rely on the club’s flourishing underage set-up, which has produced the likes of Jessica Ziu and Emily Whelan, to step up if needed.
Title Odds: 7/2
First game: Away v Athlone Town, Saturday, March 28th (kick-off 2pm).
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