Shelbourne are a big club; it has a long tradition in Irish football. And since merging with Raheny United, they have displayed an ambitious streak to become the nation’s best in women’s football.

In order to move into that position, where they can knock Peamount United off their perch, the Dublin outfit knew that they needed a manager with an X-factor. So when Noel King became available, it was a no-brainer appointment.

Dave Bell did an excellent job with The Reds in 2020, but he was stepping away from the role and that paved the way for King – who had finished up with the Football Association of Ireland – to take over and put his stamp on the team. Right from the start, his proactive approach was well received by players, staff and club officials.

King has been there and done it. Okay not in this League but he did lead the Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team for a decade – guiding them to a qualifying play-off and introducing a flurry of players who would form the backbone of the team for many years. He knows how to work with female players and how to adjust his tactics to bring the best out in them.

So what did he do exactly at Shelbourne? Firstly, he brought some confidence back to the dressing room. He made the squad of players believe that they could go all the way to win the League and that what mattered most in that pursuit was their attitude. Sure they had talent – individually and collectively – but if they did not work as hard as they could then silverware would be unattainable.

There were some big tests along the way – the 2-1 loss to Peamount in April, the tight encounter with Bohemians in August, the 1-0 loss to Wexford Youths in August and the 5-0 collapse to Peamount in September – but they regrouped each time and lifted themselves back up. That was a sign of their collective spirit, honed by King.

There were also the set-backs of losing both Jamie Finn and Emily Whelan when the in-form duo departed to Birmingham City, while Keeva Keenan – brought back to the club to add competition for places – broke her foot before she could really get going. Coping without three Ireland internationals would be too much for most managers, but King didn’t flinch. He placed his trust in the players available and ensured that they seized their opportunities. A great example of that was the trust placed in 16-year-old Jessie Stapleton, who emerged as one of the team’s best players.

King is a fantastic coach and a shrewd manager. They are different roles but he has the experience to combine both. And players respond to a leader who can bring something new to their game. That has certainly been the case in Ciara Grant’s support runs, in Jessica Gargan’s assured positional play, in Amanda Budden’s kicking and in Saoirse Noonan’s ability to come alive around the penalty area. Shelbourne are most definitely a better team under King’s watch.

The Dubliner will admit that there were times that did just enough to get by, such as their quarter-final and semi-final wins in the EVOKE.ie FAI Women’s Cup. But that is also a sign of a manager who knows what he is doing; never feeling the need to panic. And, as a result, they are through to the final of that competition.

Ultimately, Shelbourne needed Peamount to slip up on the final day but they still had to do their job, at home to Wexford. The players could have been easily distracted, especially with constant roars coming from their supporters as news of goals in PRL Park filtered in, but King’s trust in the team to hold their shape, to support each other and to keep on fighting led them to victory.

Shelbourne are the 2021 League champions. Noel King deserves a lot of credit for that.