Shelbourne’s Twitter account probably best summed up events on Saturday evening with just two words: “Holy God”. It had, after all, looked like divine intervention would be needed if they were to win their first SSE Airtricity National League title since 2016, but it came in the form of Galway’s stunning 5-2 win over the three-in-a-row-seeking Peamount United.
"The odds were ridiculous in the bookies on it happening," said Shelbourne manager Noel King to TG4 after his side's 3-2 win over Wexford Youths proved enough to beat Peamount to the title by a point. "You could never believe what happened, really and truly, I can't believe it," he said.
Peamount had a four-point advantage over Shelbourne going in to the final two games of the campaign, but a 0-0 draw at home to DLR Waves in their penultimate fixture kept the race alive.
It looked to be all over, though, when they went 2-0 up after just 20 minutes against Galway on their home turf of Greenogue, Áine O'Gorman heading home a Tiegan Ruddy corner on four minutes before Galway goalkeeper Leah Hayes Coen let a tame Ruddy free-kick deflect off her foot and in to the goal.
But there followed a remarkable collapse by Peamount against a team they had beaten 4-0 and 3-0 in their previous league meetings this season and who trailed them by 34 points going in to the game.
By half-time it was 2-2, fine finishes from Emma Starr and Lynsey McKee levelling the game, and while Peamount might have been expected to regain their composure in the second half, it was their visitors who ran away with the game, scoring three more goals in the final half hour.
Shauna Brennan's cross from the right ended up sailing over Peamount goalkeeper Niamh Reid-Burke's head, before Julie Ann-Russell made it 4-2 against her former team, Abbie Callanan completing the rout with eight minutes to go.
Back at Tolka Park, two goals from Jessie Stapleton and a penalty from Noelle Murray had put Shelbourne in the driving seat, but by the time there were just four minutes left on the clock their lead had been reduced to 3-2, two goals from Kylie Murphy leaving their nerves jangling before the relief of the final whistle.
Having seemed set to finish runners-up in the League for the fourth successive season, Shelbourne were champions, captain Pearl Slattery raising the trophy. And they now have a double to play for, Wexford their opponents again in next Sunday’s FAI Cup final.
“Wexford had half a chance in the box in the 93rd minute and I nearly collapsed, but the girls stood strong,” said King. “I didn’t really think we would be champions, but it’s fantastic. They’ve been magnificent all through the year, they worked their socks off, they’re a special group. They deserved to win it in my view . . . albeit in such a late, ridiculously, mad, exciting way.”
Holy God, indeed.