Shamrock Rovers wish to announce the departure of Shane Robinson from the club. Shane, who has held the role of Academy Director at the club since 2014, has been appointed to a new role of Assistant Director of Football with the FAI.

It was in July 1999 that the then 18-year-old winger joined the Hoops from his hometown Schoolboy club Bohemians in Waterford. His career with the Hoops was to span a five-year period up to the end of the 2004 season. Shane then moved on to Drogheda United where he was to win league and cup honours. He wasn’t finished at Rovers though and rejoined under Michael O’Neill for the 2009 season when he had the honour of leading the team out for the very first game at Tallaght Stadium (v Sligo Rovers) on 13th March that same year. After a further one-year spell with the Stirling Macedonia Football Club in Perth, Western Australia, Shane moved back to Europe, this time joining FC Haka in the Finnish Premier League.

In 2013, Shane renewed his association with Shamrock Rovers once again before making the decision to hang up his boots. In his three spells with the Hoops, Shane chalked up an impressive 315 competitive appearances.

It was in 2014 that he was appointed as Academy Director at Shamrock Rovers. There had been a Schoolboy section within the club that had been in existence since 1996 and the club was now keen to develop that into a properly funded academy set up. One of Shane’s first tasks was to oversee the procurement of a suitable base from which the Academy could operate from. Soon after his appointment, the club entered into discussions with the Roadstone Group Sports Club for the use of its underused playing pitches at Kingswood.

In 2016, a new 3G Astro pitch was officially opened and two years later, after a lot of work, the new hybrid grass pitches for the small-sided and 11-a-side teams were completed. In the meantime, a modular dressing room complex was constructed and along with the pitch developments, the club was now providing facilities that were second to none in the country. The work was by no means complete and in 2021, following negotiations with the RGSC, the main sports hall at the facility was converted into an indoor training centre with a synthetic grass surface. Very quickly after that a state-of-the-art gym was also installed.

Shane Robinson played a huge part in all of these developments on behalf of the Academy while also overseeing the development of a coaching structure that was to offer the best-qualified coaches in the country the opportunity to work together in a youth structure that had come so far in such a short time. The coaching alumni at the Academy is like a who’s who of ex-Rovers players working with the best in non-Rovers connected coaches who have excelled in their time at the Academy.

In an interview in 2017, Shane detailed how the emphasis had been on the younger age groups. These were the teams that the very youngest of players would be developed from. “A lot of effort has gone in over the last couple of months to make sure that we are extremely competitive when the season starts but otherwise the same amount of effort is going into our underage teams which has to be the case as well because I feel we should the best at every level in this country.”

In that same interview in the club’s match day programme, he referenced a goalkeeper by the name of Gavin Bazunu as one of the up-and-coming young stars saying that the club had good hopes for this young lad. Under his baton, a lot of effort was put into the younger age groups and this was in tandem with a new challenge presented by the expansion of the League of Ireland underage structure with the addition of both Under 13 and Under 15 leagues. Thanks to the groundwork done by Shane Robinson and his coaches, Shamrock Rovers was well prepared for this development in the game. Players who had come through the club from their very early years formed the backbone of these teams and continue to do so. In 2021, the Hoops won the league at both Under 19 & Under 17 levels. Last year, the Under 15s and Under 14s were both successful in capturing league and cup doubles at national league level. 2022 also brought unprecedented success amongst the Hoops’ DDSL teams in both local and SFAI competitions. Yet another new development at the club overseen by Shane was the introduction of teams in the Women’s national league at Under 19 & Under 17 level.

His brief also included working in tandem with the first team management at the club to develop players who could be called upon to become part of the senior squad.

Possibly the biggest challenge that Shane and his group of coaches at the Academy faced was the national lockdown that occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic. With football suddenly coming to a halt, a way had to be found to keep engaged with the players and to enable them to keep up their fitness levels. Again, under Shane’s directorship, the club led the way in developing online programmes which not only provided the academy players with fitness and skills programmes but also enabled the coaches to keep track of their progress. While the playing of games had to take a break, this was a well-thought-out programme that served coaches and players well during a period when the players were missing out on a vital part of their physical development. An average of 75 to 80 players participated in each session. “I think the boys are well ahead of what I would perceive the rest of the country to be because they haven’t stopped. We will be ready for a return”, said Shane at the time. 

In 2015, only Sean Callan and Mark Travers featured as Ireland underage internationals. Between them, they made 4 appearances that year. A measure of the progress of the SRFC Academy can be seen amongst the international teams last year when players from the club made 161 appearances at all age levels in both men’s and women’s football. Players the likes of Aidomo Emakhu, Justin Ferizaj, Gideon Tetteh, Naj Razi, Freddie Turley, Ike Orazi, Sinclair Armstrong, Kevin Zefi, Maria Reynolds, Abby Tuthill and Jaime Thompson are only some of those who have represented Ireland during their time as SRFC Academy players. The work of Shane Robinson in developing the SRFC Academy since his appointment in 2014 has certainly produced a wealth of talent. The SRFC Academy has attracted attention further afield with teams travelling abroad on a very regular basis and competing well with top-class opposition. Manchester City and Brighton are just two of the many clubs that have visited the SRFC Academy in Kingswood.

A final legacy from his time at the club, working alongside club officials, is the pioneering Ashfield Education programme which has already enabled the likes of Gavin Bazunu complete second-level education whilst becoming a professional footballer, this now constitutes the only full-time football environment with TY, 5th and 6th year in the country. From a starting point with 5 players/students, we now have 28 boys and girls in full-time football/education in 2023 with plans to grow further in 2024 & 2025.

Shane Robinson departs Shamrock Rovers having overseen the development of a top-class academy in his role as Academy Director. We take this opportunity to wish him all the very best as he prepares for his new role as Assistant Director of Football with the Football Association of Ireland and to thank him for the excellent work that he has done at the SRFC Academy since his appointment nine years ago.