DECLAN DEVINE blasted referee, Paul McLaughlin in the wake of Derry City’s shock home defeat to UCD on Friday night, claiming the official cost his side a chance to close the gap on the league leaders.
For the second game in succession the ‘Candy Stripes’ were reduced to 10 men as left-back, Dermot McCaffrey saw a straight red for his challenge on UCD’s Dean Clarke on 79 minutes inside the penalty area.
That incident proved the turning point in the match as the College men got back on level terms from the spot and while Devine was willing to accept that decision, he was furious with what transpired four minutes later.
The official, who hails from Inishowen, then pointed to the spot for a second time after Mark Griffin appeared to bring down UCD’s Sean Russell on the edge of the penalty area.
There was some debate about the amount of contact involved and the award of the penalty had the Derry players and bench up in arms before David McMillan gave UCD the lead for a second time with his spot-kick.
And the fuming Derry boss insisted that the ‘shocking’ decision was typical of the officiating he believes has contributed to his side’s downturn in fortunes in recent weeks.
It was a contentious decision and with the suspension list becoming increasing alarmingly – Barry Molly also ruled out of next week’s trip to Drogheda after picking up another caution - Devine was understandably frustrated with the latest turn of events.
“It’s very hard to take,” said the Derry boss. “I think a huge turning point in the game was at 2-2. I felt we would get a third goal because they had retreated but when the referee gives them a second penalty it was curtains for us when we’re down to 10 men.
“I’m sure when everybody watches it again they’ll agree that it’s an embarrassment of a decision. It was poor defending for the first penalty and the sending off. The second penalty was an absolute disgrace. It’s the second time in two matches that we’ve been punished by refereeing decisions and it’s not acceptable.
“We’ve also had a blatant, stone-wall penalty turned down ourselves when the game was tied. It was a blatant hand-ball when it was crossed into the box and the player ducked down and hit it with his arm. It’s very poor.”
When asked if the accumulation of suspensions and the concession of penalties were down to indiscipline, Devine refuted those suggestions, claiming his side were being unfairly treated by match officials.
“Well that’s down to poor refereeing,” said the Creggan man. “If you look at Shane McEleney’s sending off at Dundalk - it was a shocking decision.
“If you look at the decision last Monday against Sligo when Shane got sent off it was poor because I felt he got a touch to the ball.
“To be fair tonight, Dermot (McCaffrey) probably deserved to go but I don’t buy in to the indiscipline side of things at all. We need a break from referees and we’re certainly not getting them.
“There’s nothing you can do about it because if you have a go they come back and get you in the long grass. We all have bad days at the office but that has certainly cost us in terms of some of the decisions in general play not just the penalty decisions.”
It wasn’t just the referee’s performance which was criticised by Devine as he lambasted his side’s defending and inability to put away chances throughout what was a frustrating 90 minutes.
“It was a very bad night for us and I’m very disappointed in the way in which we defended first and foremost. I’m gutted that we didn’t take the opportunities that our good play at times created. On another night we would have won 7-4.
“I’m bitterly disappointed with the way we defended having gone 2-1 up,” he added. “I felt the game was too open in the first half and certainly too open in the second half.
“If you’re going to win football matches you can’t give your opposition too many chances. I’m sick saying that anybody who underestimates any team in this league are in for a rude awakening.
“That goes for players, staff, everybody. Nobody has a divine right to win a football match. I still think we were the better team on the night.
“We have created a lot of good chances and scored two fantastic goals to pull ourselves ahead and then we switch off and get severely punished for it.
“It was always going to be an open game. We’re missing six experienced players and we’re going to be missing another two for Drogheda next week. It’s not acceptable the way we defended. I’m the first to praise and hand credit where it’s due. Attacking-wise we’ve created a lot of opportunities and we’ve got to be ruthless and put them away.”
With league champions, Sligo Rovers held to a stalemate at Bray Wanderers it will have made the result all the more difficult to take for Devine.