It’s been an off-season of change at Tolka Park. Kevin Doherty took the reigns at Tolka Park back in December after Johnny McDonnell departed The Reds to join Drogheda United.
There has also been a number of changes in the playing staff. Fourteen of last season’s players have signed up for 2015, while eight of last season’s team have departed Tolka Park.
Amongst Doherty’s signings are experienced heads such as Philly Hughes and Daire Doyle, but Doherty has also used the off-season to bring in some young, energetic players, such as Colm Crowe and Craig Walsh. Doherty believes that this balance will prove a benefit to all at the club.
"I believe that I have assembled a decent enough squad within the constraints of the budget. There is a number of experienced heads, the likes of Philly [Hughes] and Daire Doyle that I have brought into the squad that will help the young lads that are coming through,” Doherty told shelbournefc.ie.
“We have a good blend of youth and experience and I'll be looking to play an attractive brand of football that, hopefully, conditions allow,” he added.
Shels didn’t have it easy against Ollie Horgan’s Finn Harps last season. The Reds won just once in the four league ties against the Ballyboffey side. Doherty is expecting another difficult challenge from Harps this Friday.
“They caused us a lot of trouble last year, they beat us at Finn Park and we only got a draw in the other one and only barely scraped through down in Tolka, so I know it'll be a tough game, like [with] most teams in the league,” Doherty told extratime.ie. at last week’s SSE Airtrcity League launch.
“I think Finn Harps will be a massive test. It's at home and you'd always like to start the season with a home game, but I think it'll be a big test for us alright,” the Shels boss furthered.
The Reds will be without Ryan Robinson who’s suspended and Dylan McGlade will miss out through injury, while Evan Osam, who has joined on loan from Shamrock Rovers, is a doubt and will be assessed closer to kick-off time.
Finn Harps will be looking to start their 2015 First Division in strong fashion, as they travel to Tolka Park on Friday night. Ollie Horgan’s side will be looking to improve on last season’s 5th placed finish, despite this season’s First Division being arguably more competitive.
Despite his side’s recent record against Shelbourne, Harps boss Horgan knows that, especially with a couple of key players suspended, Friday night’s tie against promotion pushers Shelbourne will be a real test for his side.
“Maybe we're better going to Shelbourne that way than even at full strength because we mightn't get anything out of Tolka,” Horgan told extratime.ie at last week’s SSE Airtricity League launch.
“Shelbourne always play good football and have added to their squad since last year with the addition of experienced players in Philip Hughes, Daire Doyle and Craig Walsh as well as very talented younger players in Evan Osam and Sean Heaney.
“Go into the Lions’ Den if you want and if we don't get something out of it, so be it, we have another 27 games to go after it again.”
Horgan was content with his side’s pre-season despite disruptions due to poor weather conditions.
“We lost a session at the start due to snow and probably the only disappointment was the lack of time training and playing on grass pitches due to weather and also only getting to play a half in Derry at the weekend due to rain,” Horgan told finnharps.com.
Horgan and Coach Michael McGlynn will be forced to watch from the stands on Friday night as both are serving the remainder of suspensions that began in 2014.
Packie Mailey will miss Friday’s trip to Tolka Park through injury, while Ciaran Coll and Gareth Harkin are out through suspension.
Referee: John McLoughlin.
Shelbourne will be looking to keep up their positive home form in 2015. They lost just once at Tolka Park in the league last season.
Finn Harps last beat Shelbourne in the league at Tolka Park back in 2007.
Shels beat Finn Harps just once in four games last season. Harps also won a game, while the other two fixtures finished in draws.
Shelbourne 8/12; Draw 12/5; Finn Harps 7/2.
Shelbourne 2-1 Finn Harps
Injured: Dylan McGlade.
Doubtful: Evan Osam.
Suspended: Ryan Robinson.
Injured: Packie Mailey.
Suspended: Ollie Horgan, Michael McGlynn, Ciaran Coll, Gareth Harkin.