Duff embracing pressure of the business end of the season

Shelbourne FC go head to head with St Patrick’s Athletic tomorrow in the League of Ireland Premier Division (7:45pm KO)

Damien Duff’s side remain in the hunt for Europe as the business end of the season explodes into life. Duff’s side picked up three points on the road a week ago as Mark Coyle got the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win over Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds. 

Duff welcomed back Matty Smith and Brian McManus for those game, which was a big boost for all at the club:

“We’ll have to push them hard over this break, I think it is coming at the right time, we can do a mini pre-season with Brian McManus, Matty Smith, and Sean Boyd. Kameron Ledwidge is back running as well which is great.

“New player in the door Cabral hasn’t played a lot of football, he needs to get up to speed quickly. Good to have bodies back and choices now to make.” 

Duff also sent well wishes to young goalkeeper Dáithí Folan who suffered a serious injury in action for U19s a week ago against St Pats: 

“He’s been through the mill Dáithí Folan, all the keepers and Paul Skinner went to see him in hospital today, he’s had a few operations already on the leg, he’s a special boy, we all love him. The injury was horrific, I wouldn’t wish it on my own worst enemy.” 

“He’ll be in the best of care, we’ll look after him and do everything for him, the staff, the medical team and Mark Cornish and Doctor Anthony, he will make a full recovery, listen, there’s a long road, we’re all here for him and thinking of him.  

“Lucky that his Mam is a doctor and was at the game, I was there myself with Joey, the game was paused for near on 50 mins, terrible injury, but he’s a strong boy, he’ll make a full recovery and he’ll play for Shels again one day.”

It’s tight near the top of the table. Shels begin the night in 5th place, 4 points behind Bohs in 4th. Duff reckons games against direct rivals can take on a knockout football feel:

“There is a cup final feel and the pressure that comes with that but like I’ve told the guys for a few weeks, it’s a good pressure to have, that’s what we crave, why we get involved in elite football. 

“Pushing for Europe, it’s totally different to the pressure of a relegation battle, or just playing games behind one of the mid table teams, where we’re at now, it gives you added focus, gets juice flowing. Why it’s addictive and why the people on the pitch, the people in the stand, it’s why we’re hooked on football.”  

Games against the Saints have been tight affairs this season, with all decided by a single goal in 2023, with the Reds on the wrong end of three successive 1-0 scorelines. Despite the record against the Saints, Duff feels the results probably haven’t reflected how close those matches have been:

“Absolutely not, 3 wins, 9 point swing, if these games don’t go their way you’re near on the same position, dangerous team, a lot of quality, set pieces very dangerous, we know that, we need to defend well, don’t give up anything, because one is all it takes, maybe the game could be decided by that again. 

“There may not be a lot of chances, but if we can score off one set piece or win the game in open play, we’re fully of the belief we can do that. I think we’ve shown some brilliant form throughout the season, and recently we’ve brought calmness and composure to our game. Fully aware of the challenge, but winning tomorrow would be massive.”

“I expect another tight game, they’d still see themselves as title challengers, listen its a must win for them, must win for us as well, I know there’s big games tomorrow in the league, but the biggest game in Ireland is at Tolka Park I am absolutely certain of that.”

The Reds have lost just 1 game in their last 12 in the league and Duff feels their ability to grind out results and pick up points has shown how far the team have come: 

“Second half last week you suck it up at times, a lot of experience in our squad now, and we have got better at grinding out results, we’ve new boys of course, but a good blend of experience Paddy knows the league, he’s a proper man, Kearns in goal knows the league, Griff and Tyreke have a lot of experience at this level, then we bring on JR Wilson an out and out defender and we have athleticism all over field. We’re comfortable with the defending side and we work hard on the attacking side. Looking at a picture earlier today from 18 months ago, the squad has changed. Additions we brought have really helped us grow, they’ve grown before your eyes you could say.”

Duff feels the fans will have an important role to play tomorrow and he’s urged them to get into Tolka early and make their voices heard:

“Walking out tomorrow, I want the players to look around before kick off and soak it in, the noise and colour from the Riverside and the Main Stand. I know it will be a huge lift, here listen it gives you spring in your step, makes you feel quicker, stronger, even taller. I feel that when I look into the stands and that’s only walking across the pitch to the dugout, I can only imagine how big that is for the players. We’ll need the fans tomorrow, no doubt, Pats are a good team, look at the games against them this and last season, we’re more than capable of winning the game and that’s what we’re going out to do”. 


Tickets for the Reds upcoming clash are available here: bit.ly/sfc1895


Watch all the action on LOITV, coverage begins from 7:30pm with kick off at 7:45pm. Commentary from Dave Armstrong and former Shels player Derek Prendergast.

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