2023 LOIW Season Preview: Shelbourne

Jessie Stapleton celebrates scoring at Tallaght Stadium in the FAI Women's Cup Final

Jessie Stapleton celebrates scoring at Tallaght Stadium in the FAI Women's Cup Final Credit: Peter Fitzpatrick (ETPhotos)

Manager:  Noel King

Stadium:  Tolka Park

Players In:  Sophie Watters, Kerri Letmon, Nadine Clare (all from DLR Waves), Maggie Pierce (Univ. NC), Kayla Hamric (Houston Dash), Christie Gray (RIK Karlskoga), Ruvimbo Mucherera (KuPs), Jenaya Robertson (Cacereno Femenino), Siobhan Killeen (Dublin GAA)

Players Out:  Amanda Budden, Jess Gargan, Shauna Fox, Abbie Larkin, Aoife Kelly, Lia O’Leary (all to Shamrock Rovers)

extratime.com Key Player:  Jessie Stapleton

The 2022 season belonged to Jess Stapleton, winning league and cup winners medals and developing into one of the league’s most influential players. She also claimed the WNL’s Young Player of the Year award.

With the departure of Shauna Fox, Stapleton may find herself back in central defence but wherever she plays the 18-year-old will be crucial to Shelbourne’s fortunes in 2023.

extratime.com One to Watch:  Courtney Maguire

Having lost goalkeeper Amanda Budden to Shamrock Rovers Noel King has decided to put his trust in young ‘keeper Courtney Maguire.

Maguire was with the Reds in 2019 and 2020 but then spent two seasons at Bohemians. She gained some valuable experience in 2021, making 15 league appearances, but added just one league outing last season before returning to Tolka Park last July.

Spoken of as a ‘keeper of real quality she will be put to the test this season and how she gets on could help to define Shelbourne’s season.

Last Season:  League - Champions

Shelbourne had something of a roller coaster journey last season, opening their campaign with 11 wins from their first dozen games. During that period they conceded the grand total of one goal. But when Jenna Slattery scored to earn Galway a draw at Tolka Park in early June it was the start of a mini slump.

They managed just two wins in their next seven league games and when they suffered successive defeats to title rivals Athlone Town and Peamount in mid September it looked as if their title goose might be cooked.

But they recovered to win their last four and, most significantly, to beat Wexford 4-0 at Ferrycarrig Park on the final day to claim their third league championship.

The story behind the numbers is that the team that started the season so powerfully lost three key players during the Summer, a period coinciding with the Reds’ downturn in form; Chloe Mustaki, Saoirse Noonan and Jessica Ziu, all of whom went to England.

Leah Doyle, Abbie Larkin and Gemma Quinn were among the players to step up to the plate in the second half of the season, while the growing influence of Alex Kavanagh and Keeva Keenan also became part of Shelbourne’s evolving dynamic. All of which was built on the foundation of a remarkably solid defensive unit.

FAI Cup:  Cup Winners

Shelbourne’s route to their second FAI Women’s Cup triumph started against Peamount at Tolka Park with a 3-2 win that was rescued after going down 2-0 in the opening 15 minutes.

Then came a 1-0 semi-final win over Bohemians which was a very tight affair against a Bohs side that performed much better than their league position might have suggested.

The final came the weekend after the Reds had won their league decider against Wexford and there was an air of invincibility about them when they walked out to face Athlone at Tallaght Stadium. Individual errors handed Shelbourne an early 2-0 lead which saw them over the line, giving them the league and cup double which had eluded them the year before.

What to expect in 2023:

The return of Shamrock Rovers to the women’s League of Ireland has led to a winter of discontent for a number of clubs and Rovers’ remorseless recruitment process has drawn many of the league’s top players to Dublin 24. In this respect Shelbourne have been hit particularly hard.

They have seen almost their entire back-line migrate to Tallaght. Keeper Amanda Budden, full-back Jess Gargan and centre back Shauna Fox have all departed as well as the wonderfully gifted Abbie Larkin.

To balance this, three players arrived from DLR Waves, including defensive midfielder Nadine Clare, and a number of key players remain from 2022 - notably Jess Stapleton, Noelle Murray and club captain Pearl Slattery - but in terms of ins and outs Shels were running a deficit.

But everything changed in the week before the start of the new season. In the space of three days Noel King landed six signings, five of them from North America. Siobhan Killeen also returns after a spell playing inter-county GAA and Aussie Rules.

It’s impossible to know whether the new signings can replace the quality players that have left over the last year but the very fact of their arrival will give hope to Reds fans that the threat from West Dublin can be overcome.

If the new arrivals click expect another title challenge. If not, fourth.