Crunch time beckons for Shelbourne both on and off the field but the clear aim is to have the Reds senior teams, both men and women, in European competition on a regular basis.
Since they last qualified for Europe 15 years ago, the club have been demoted for financial trouble, promoted twice and are on course for a third return to the top-flight, leading the First Division by 11 points.
Rather than their tenancy in the Premier Division being another fleeting one, chief executive David O’Connor believes the ambition should be to look upwards.
Initiatives like the one launched yesterday, whereby 25 early school leavers will enrol on a sports business course at the new Shelbourne College in September, will only strengthen ties with the community.
Given the division among fans caused by their plan to leave Tolka Park to groundshare with Bohemians at a rebuilt Dalymount Park from 2025, every scheme is necessary to retain unity.
“We’ve put a lot of emphasis over the last 18 months on building out our outreach programme under the title, Reds Together,” explained O’Connor, appointed CEO in 2018 at just 26 after a nine-year playing career in the League of Ireland.
“I’ve been lucky enough first-hand to be given the opportunity to work in the background of running a football club.
“That’s why the modules on this course are very applicable, hands-on and transferable to any sports club.
“We’re using the profile of the club as a vehicle for genuinely doing good in the local community and engaging with as many young people as possible.
“While it’s a Shels-branded initiative, it’s not solely restricted to our players or academy members. This is open to the wider north Dublin community through a full interview process.”
On the stadium front, Dublin City Council (DCC), who took control of Tolka in 2016, still intend selling the land to fund the €35m Dalymount project.
Shels are not aligned with the “Save Tolka Park” campaign currently being led by local activists, including Drumcondra-born Eamon Dunphy, yet their move to nearby Phibsborough has been again delayed. Funding for the design phase was granted in April.
“We’re continuing to engage with DCC, as we have over the last number of years,” added O’Connor. “The timeline for finalisation of Dalymount has changed over recent months and years. The very earliest we’ve been given is 2025 or 2026 but that’s subject to change.
“Funding issues with any large-scale projects are going to cause potential disruptions to timelines. It’s natural with any project that size and cost.”
At least there’s tangible on-field progress being made.
Along with the First Division side, Noel King’s women are deadlocked with three-in-a-row chasing Peamount United at the top of the women’s national league.
As Shels crave for Euro nights, their intended co-tenants Bohs have emerged from similar problems to enjoy them here and now.
Their next date is tomorrow in the Europa Conference League against Dudelange, for which they carry a 1-0 first leg into. Avoiding defeat will boost their prize-money to €850,000 and clinch a third round clash against Greek side PAOK next week.
All 8,000 of the available tickets at the restricted capacity Aviva Stadium sold out in 90 minutes and veteran Keith Ward is pleading with his younger team-mates to savour the experience.
“We try to instill into the players how far Bohemians has come,” said the winger.
“You couldn’t get 3,000 fans to home matches a few years ago and now we’ve 8,000 in the Aviva. The grass wasn’t always as green as this now and it’s important to cherish this experience.”
One player who won’t be staying on their European crusade is Bastien Hery. The playmaker’s move from Linfield in pre-season hasn’t worked out and his loan to Derry City yesterday is likely to be turned permanent should he rediscover his form in a new habitat.
Joint league leaders St Patrick’s Athletic, meanwhile, have recruited Maltese international striker Kyrian Nwoko.