2023 Season Review: Shelbourne

Damien Duff and Joey O'Brien

Damien Duff and Joey O'Brien Credit: Conor Ryan (ETPhotos)

Team: Shelbourne

Head Coach: Damien Duff

Top Scorer: Jack Moylan (15 league goals)

Stadium: Tolka Park

Highest Attendance: 4,450 (v Bohs in July)

Lowest Attendance: 2,100 (v Sligo in April)

Star Player: Jack Moylan

The Kilbarrack native was always going to be a crucial cog in the Shelbourne machine in 2023, however he exceeded all expectations with his goalscoring exploits in the absence of the injured Seán Boyd for a large chunk of the season.

Nominally an attacking creative midfielder, the former Bohs Academy graduate saw himself repositioned higher up the field as a replacement for the Reds’ stricken centre forward Boyd. He revelled in the new role and racked up a league high 15 strikes earning him a post season move to Lincoln City.

His consistency throughout the season saw him play a part in every league game for the Drumcondra based outfit and earned him a place on the PFAI Team of the Season.

Less glamorous but equally as important to Moylan was the contribution of JJ Lunney - the 25-year-old playing over 2,900 minutes in the heart of the Shels engine room with an average of over 40 passes per game (the 11th highest in the league with Molloy at seventh) and an 86% success rate according to sofascore.com.

Best Young Player: Evan Caffrey

With Moylan only 22, Gavin Molloy 21 and loanees Harry Wood and Will Jarvis 21 and 20 years old respectively all fall into the Young Player of the Year category as per the PFAI parameters.

However, for this award we're going to try and stay with those in their teens for the start of the season. Of the aforementioned quartet, Molloy can feel the most justifiably aggrieved as his performances throughout the season belied his youth.

Operating regularly in a more defensive position than he previously would have played, he excelled at the heart of the Shelbourne defence. As mentioned previously, his passing stats were among the highest in the league while having the 12th highest average interceptions per 90 minutes according to the same source.

As for the teens themselves, flying right sided defender David Toure has potential to be a star of the future however injury has hampered his first team appearances so far. Similarly, Gbemi Arubi showed glimpses of his power and pace - another for whom high hopes have been held.

However, it was Evan Caffrey who made the greatest impact on the 2023 campaign in the opinion of extratime.com.

Arriving from UCD at the start of the season, he played a part in every league game for his side - netting crucial goals against Drogheda United twice (one was ultimately the winner, the other - a free kick- earned a point) - and showed his versatility by operating across the midfield positions, primarily on the right.

Joining a familiar setup, his cousin is the aforementioned Molloy while Duff coached him while both were previously at the Shamrock Rovers Academy, he racked up a couple of assists from set pieces (for Shane Griffin and Seán Boyd goals) as well as earning a penalty against Dundalk which Jack Moylan converted.

Best New Signing: Conor Kearns

Having been in the League of Ireland system almost a decade - since first arriving in the UCD Academy in 2015 - the netminder from Templeogue is hardly a newcomer.

However, with his spell in the First Division with Galway United ending in disappointment, a return to Dublin gave him a chance to reignite a promising top flight career which first rose to prominence during his time in the UCD first team.

Given the opportunity, he grabbed it with both hands and excelled throughout the season - racking up 14 clean sheets (second only to Derry City's Brian Maher) and recording a save percentage of 79% as well as making a penalty save against Robbie Benson to ensure his side drew 1-1 at Oriel Park.

His form didn't go unnoticed and his fellow professionals voted him onto the PFAI Team of the Season while Shelbourne extended his contract during the summer shortly after the announcement of new Turkish investment from the owners of Hull City.

Special mention too must go to another two arrivals courtesy of this partnership with exciting attackers Harry Wood and Will Jarvis bringing a new injection of goalscoring threat into the Shelbourne attack for the second half of the season.

What we expected they would do:

Our staff writers predicted a seventh place finish with Sligo Rovers just pipping the Dubliners to sixth in the league.

What they actually did:


While a first round defeat to rivals Bohemians may have been seen as a low point having reached the final stage in the previous edition of the competition, come season's end it was St Patrick's Athletic’s final victory over the Dalymount Park outfit which saw Damien Duff's men qualify for Europe.


That qualification was secured courtesy of a fourth place finish in the league - a leap of three places from their 2022 campaign.

With a total of 71 (44 scored, 27 conceded) goals in their 36 league games, Shels fans saw at least ten less goals than any other supporters. Their 14 clean sheets included six goalless draws and four 1-0 wins while their 15 draws was the league's highest.

An end of season run which saw 25 points taken from their final twelve league games (seven wins, four draws and a defeat) meant that their final day 4-2 win over Drogheda United secured a fourth place finish - their highest league placing since winning the competition in 2006.

What they need to improve on for next year:

Score goals. As the sixth highest scorers in the league with 44 goals, Shels will start the 2024 season shorn of over a third of these with the departure of Jack Moylan to Lincoln City.

While the return of a fully fit Seán Boyd should add more firepower, stripped of the guile of the aforementioned Jarvis and Wood whose loan deals from Hull City were due to expire at the end of the 2023 season, the Tolka Park outfit need to find new creative outlets.

The close season arrivals of the experienced duo of Keith Ward and Seán Gannon should help here but more arrivals are expected, especially given the fact that European football needs a larger squad to cope with midweek games.