It has been confirmed that Shelbourne FC have reached an agreement with Dublin City Council (DCC) which will result in them groundsharing with rivals, Bohemians, in a redeveloped Dalymount Park. Thus, bringing an eventual end to Shels time in the historic Tolka Park which the club has called its home since 1989.
An official statement released by the Shelbourne board of management reads;
"The decision to leave Tolka was a difficult one for both the Directors of Shelbourne FC Ltd and for the Board of Management of the Club. It has been our home for almost three decades and during these years the Club enjoyed tremendous success there.
Both the Directors and the Club’s Board of Management are united in the view that the time is right to start planning a move to pastures new. Tolka Park is increasingly showing its age and there was no prospect of attracting investment to redevelop.
We look forward to working with Bohemian FC and while remaining foes on the pitch, hope to work tirelessly off it to ensure the project ahead is a success."
"The decision to leave Tolka was a difficult one"
No it wasn't. You couldn't wait to get out. https://t.co/eTRWXvm8An
— Aido (@Aido1895) October 4, 2016
I'm not a Shels fan (as you can guess...) but that statement from their board has me fuming. Snivelling BS throughout
— Dodge (@seidodge) October 4, 2016
Twenty years ago, the Richmond Road venue received a special merit award for its facilities, with the host stating that "It's been transformed. From the lush green of its playing surface to the plush all-seated accommodation. Yes, it really is one of the jewels in Irish soccer".
Yet since then, Tolka Park has fell into a state of disrepair as Shels crowds dwindle due to a number of years in the First Division. Despite the fact that the deal will result in improved facilities, there is a contingent of Shels supporters which have met the Dalymount Park deal with skepticism.
Speaking to Balls.ie, Shelbourne season ticket holder, Shane Dawson, expressed his opinion on the matter;
"The statement released by the Board of Management (BOM) today merely reaffirms what was noted in a matchday programme before. Dalymount is a done deal, but this statement is more sentiment than substance. There is no confirmed time-frame. There is no mention of whether or not Accolade Ltd will have its debt written off.
The move has the potential of being extremely beneficial to Shels if they can begin life in Phibsborough potentially debt free. This current BoM must be thanked for saving our club when it was on the brink but it is time for change. There is no transparency with the current BoM. And considering the fact that many of the current Board worked closely with Ollie Byrne, I am very wary of what might become of Shels over the next few seasons.
If Shels are to have any genuine future there must be fan representation on the Steering Group. There must be separate home dressing rooms for Shels and Bohs as well as an away dressing room. The stadium has to have the feel of a real home. Separate entrances, walkways, stands, club shops and bars. This must be fought for. I see no passion or heart from the current BoM. There are individuals running Shels who are past their sell by date.
If this is to be a genuine new dawn for Shelbourne football club then there has to be change at all levels of the club."
One may ask 'how comfortable can Shelbourne really feel in Dalymount?'. In the end, the ground and the surrounding area is currently the home of Bohemians and to think of it in any other capacity requires quite the imagination. Construction is expected to begin in 2018 which will result in Bohs playing their home games in Tolka Park until the initial phase of the project is complete.
Undoubtedly, there will be concerns raised from supporters of both Bohemians and Shelbourne as they enter the unknown as 'co-anchor tenants'. But with the right co-operation from all parties involved it will hopefully benefit two fine clubs and restore glory to the Northside of Dublin once again.