League Preview: Shelbourne -v- Shamrock Rovers

Shelbourne celebrate a goal during their 6-0 win over Cork City at Tolka Park on Saturday, 4 March 2023.

Shelbourne face Shamrock Rovers on Saturday. Credit: Peter Fitzpatrick (ETPhotos)

“Football is a game of errors. You want to make your rivals commit them and to avoid them yourself.” - Ernesto Valverde


Like the scar that sizzles whenever Voldemort comes within striking distance of Harry Potter, the Reds bear a dormant mark that glows whenever Shamrock Rovers get within a mile of Richmond Road.

On their re-entrance to the SSE Airtricity Women’s Premier Division in 2023, the Dublin 24 side scouted the biggest names in the WLOI in their quest to establish themselves as a green and white giant of the women’s game.

Unfortunately for the Reds, this led to a haemorrhaging of their star players to the foothills of the Tallaght mountains, where the opportunity to play the game for a professional outfit with a rich tapestry of history was an offer too tempting to snub.

Perhaps the football gods were officiating over Tolka Park as the Drumcondra Debonair's held the familiar faces of the visitors to a 1-1 draw early in the spring of that season.

Collie O’Neill's side had the personnel to beat Shelbourne when they went head-to-head in March 2023, yet the squad lacked the time required to knit well together as a unit.

As the months whirled by, the Hoops began to click and gathered momentum.

The return league game was a very different contest, the ghost of players past haunting Noel King along the touchline as Rovers dispatched The Reds in Tallaght 3-1.

They say a week is a long time in politics yet seven days later King’s side were celebrating an oh so sweet victory over their rivals, 2 punctures deflating the women in green and white’s hopes of an FAI Cup Final - a battle that the Reds would go on to narrowly lose against Athlone Town.

Eoin Wearen’s side have kick-started this season with two draws and one win - three significant points earned at Greenogue against the defending Champions Peamount United.

Despite their 2023 re-shuffle, the 2022 League winners sit two points ahead of the Hoops in 3rd position, one point behind Peamount United and four behind an in form Galway United.

And while Rovers may have pickpocketed a number of Shelbournes starting eleven twelve months ago, the Tolka faithful are not short on talented individuals - backline specialist Pearl Slattery and the creative Noelle Murray a force to be reckoned with for any team that steps on to the Tolka turf.

Coaxed from O’Neill's squad, the formidable Jess Gargan is another and will no doubt relish facing her former teammates this weekend in the Dublin Derby showdown at Tolka Park.

This clash is set to be a spicy encounter.


The Hoops one point streak is beginning to feel like a curse - a hex that only a Hogwarts professor could enchant.

The women in green and white have lacked a rub of the green thus far this season with four consecutive draws across all competitions and will have undoubtedly seen the international break as a welcome reprieve from what has been a frustrating run of results.

Yet it’s not all doom and gloom for the Dublin 24 side.

Three of their senior squad players returned from under 19s international duty this week, having netted a spot in the 2024 Euro finals this summer.

Speaking to shamrockrovers.ie, O’Neill reflected on his side's 2-2 draw against an impressive Treaty United, and spoke to the positives that can be utilised as the Dublin 24 side prepare for the Ringsend Derby at Tolka.

“Even looking at the goals, they were mad goals. We were the architects of our own downfall. We spoke about it after the game and had a video review on it. It’s not as if they cut us open, we just made wrong decisions at wrong times, and at least it’s an area of improvement for us.

“In all our games this year, we’ve had to come from behind, so there’s a resilience there within the side. When you look at the stats and the number of chances we create after going behind, it is all positive reading. I think it’s only a matter of time before we turn some of these draws into wins.”

The Hoops journey to Drumcondra for Saturday afternoon’s game two points adrift of the home side (and six points off league leaders Galway United), hungry for the full complement.

Looking ahead to the game this Saturday, there was a touch of Katie McCabe’s take on Ireland's European clash against the old enemy in O’Neill's summation.

Like the Tallaght born native, O’Neill downplayed the rivalry that hangs heavy between the two, from the peaks of the Dublin mountains to the banks of the Royal Canal.

“We’re just looking at it as another game to get a chance to try and get that first win of the season,” he stated to the club's media.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s Treaty, DLR, Shelbourne, Peamount or Galway it’s still just another chance to get three points. It’s not one to try and make the occasion any bigger than what it is. It’s just a normal game with 11 v 11 on the same size pitch and the same amount of points up for grabs. It’s just trying to improve on what we’ve been doing so far this season.”

Speaking to the achievements of Aoife Kelly, Lia O’Leary and in particular, Joy Ralph and her tenacious nature on the ball, O’Neill said:

“It’s brilliant to be able to perform on the international stage. They’ve been really good so far for us this year, and they’re three players who I wouldn’t be surprised if they make their senior international debut at some stage in their career.

“She’s [Joy] has been brilliant since she came in, not just the last couple of weeks or this season. She’s got better and better. When people meet her off the pitch, they think Joy is a nice girl, a lovely girl, but there’s a different side of Joy when she crosses that white line. There’s a little switch that flips. There’s a bit of anger, bite and intensity that she brings to the games. It’s an ingredient that’s going to serve her well throughout her career.”

Referee: Ryan Maher


As it stands, Rovers edge Shels in the league, a 3-1 victory at Tallaght last October nosing the Dublin 24 outfit ahead of the Reds in terms of one on one battles.

A 1-1 draw at the start of last season at Tolka led to a 2-0 win for Shelbourne over their Ringsend rivals - a loss sure to have stung O’Neill’s side given the missed opportunity at a chance to bag their first piece of silverware that the FAI Cup Final presented.


Shelbourne 2-3 Shamrock Rovers


Injured: Unknown

Doubtful: Unknown.

Suspended: Unknown.

Shamrock Rovers

Injured: Savannah McCarthy

Doubtful: None.

Suspended: None.