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Long-awaited return to top table within Shels' reach

SHELBOURNE need just 90 minutes to end five years of pain tonight as a return to the Premier Division is in their grasp.

The Reds have endured five full seasons of First Division football since they were demoted from the top flight for financial reasons after winning the Premier title in 2006, but this campaign is shaping up to be a memorable season.

Shels have already reached the FAI Cup final -- they play Sligo Rovers at Lansdowne Road on November 6 -- and Alan Mathews' men know that if they win at home to Finn Harps tonight they will be automatically guaranteed promotion, while a further win in the last game of the season against Cork City on Saturday will see them go up as champions.

"We know what a result would mean to us, a win would get us promotion, so that's all we'll focus on for now," said Mathews, aware that last Saturday's 4-1 win away to Salthill Devon left them with their fate in their own hands.

"That performance got us into that position. We need to ensure we take advantage of it now."

Times have been tough for Shels in the second tier as they have previously been in sight of promotion, but lost out to Dundalk's last-minute equaliser in the final game of the season against Limerick in 2008.

Shels have put their fans through some tense moments at the tail end of this season: at one stage they looked dead certs for promotion after a stunning run of 12 wins from 13 games from May to September, but three defeats in four games -- against Limerick, Monaghan United and Waterford United -- saw them temporarily lose top spot before they regained the initiative with last weekend's win over Salthill.