Most members of last year’s promotion-winning side have been integral to Shelbourne’s encouraging start to the season, but for Kevin Dawson the return to the Premier Division has been ravaged by injury.
Dawson has been forced to watch most of this season from the stands. In the last game before the season began- the Leinster Senior Cup match against Wexford Youths- Dawson picked up a nasty knee injury which ruled him out for six weeks.
Once he had recovered from that injury, Dawson didn’t have an extended run in the team with an ankle injury ruling him out for another couple of matches. This season may have been frustrating on a personal level, but the dynamic young midfielder has been pleased with the Reds so far.
“Obviously it’s been a good start” he said. “Personally, with the injury and I only played a couple of games then I got injured again so it hasn’t been great. We’ve had a great start.”
From now on, the goal is clear and simple for Dawson: “The main thing is to stay injury free. Obviously the lads are doing really well at the minute, but hopefully I could get a run of games and push on from there.”
At the end of last season, the squad looked settled but a few new additions in the transfer window added some steel and flair to Shels. “I think it’s good to have them,” Dawson said of the new arrivals. “We brought in quality and everybody wants to improve.”
“You’re only going to improve by playing with better players. We’d look at it as an advantage- obviously with the likes of Glenn Cronin, there’s a lot of experience in there. That’s only going to help me because I’m still only young.”
Many observers see Dawson and Cronin as natural partners in central midfield- Dawson is the creative foil to Cronin’s brilliantly effective short-passing game. Although they haven’t played together much so far, but already the former Bohs man has made an impact on Dawson.
“I’ve only played with him once or twice but in from the games I have played with him I can see that he’s so experienced” Dawson said. “He’s constantly talking to you. He breaks up the play and gives you the ball and that’s all you want really. Once you know there’s someone in there battling with you, that’s half the battle won already. He’s always up for it and he always gets you up for it.”
Tonight sees local rivals Bohs visit Tolka Park, a match Dawson is relishing: “Shels-Bohs is always going to be a big game. They had a poor start but I think, like ourselves, they’re finding their feet now.”
“They’ve got some very good players like Keith Ward in the middle and Dinny Corcoran up front. It’s going to be a big game but in Tolka you have to expect to win. You want to win every one of your home games.”
The first five results were impressive, but after that Shels tailed off a bit- sitting in fifth at the time of writing. Dawson puts Shels’ league position down to finding their feet in a new division. “When you look at the start of the season,” he said, “and the games we played, they’re really big games and everyone’s up for them. But obviously when you play the other teams around you the hype goes from around you and it’s just back to work then.”
“All the hype is gone so you just have to keep on going and get as many points as you can. You’re not going to be playing Shamrock Rovers or Sligo Rovers every week so you need to get yourself up for the other games just as much. I think we’re starting to do that now, we’re starting to find our feet.”
This season’s Premier Division is shaping up to be one of the most competitive in recent years- with teams like St.Pat’s, Drogheda and yes, Shels challenging last season’s top two. But which side has impressed Dawson the most so far, of those he’s seen?
“The team I’ve been impressed with the most so far is definitely St. Pat’s” the Coolock native said. “I thought that even though we got a 1-1 draw with them they really moved the ball well. I think they’re the best we’ve played so far. They’re after getting a few injuries now though so you don’t know what way that’ll affect them.”
“They’re not exactly picking up the wins, they’re playing really nice football but there’s no killer edge about them at the moment. I think it’s between those three, Sligo are flying and I think it’s only a matter of time before Shamrock Rovers come into form again. Rovers’ squad is so big as well. Sligo have to keep all their players fit, their bench wouldn’t be as strong. I think it’s going to be interesting.”
Niall Farrell is our correspondent at Tolka Park, covering the goings-on at Shelbourne. You can visit Niall's website for further information and contact details- niallf.net.