Eamon Zayed will lead the Derry City front-line against Bohemians tonight at the Brandywell despite having been victim of an alleged verbal racial assault during last Monday night’s drawn game against Shamrock Rovers. (Kick-Off: 7.45 p.m.)
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
And having read and listened to widespread debate centred on the Derry striker over the past few days, Brandywell boss, Stephen Kenny, has taken a hand in the controversy, publicly backing his player who had made the complaint to the match referee.
Shamrock Rovers have stood firmly behind one of their unnamed players who is alleged to have made the remark once they had been made aware that the player involved vehemently denied the allegation.
“Eamon Zayed has been not only a great player at Derry City, he’s also been an ambassador for the club,” declared Kenny last night.
“He’s a quiet, unassuming and intelligent individual who has settled in well since moving to Derry.
“Not only does he score goals on the field of play, he also acts as a volunteer with a local organisation, ‘The Escape Project,’ which is based at Iona Park, assisting local disadvantaged children by helping them improve their reading and writing skills, that’s the type of guy he is.
“So he has adapated well to life in Derry and he certainly could be doing without this controversy.
“Eamon wants to grab the headlines when scoring goals for Derry City, but not for this type of incident.
“He doesn’t want this but, at the same time, he feels very strongly about what has happened and he feels he must make a stand against it,” continued Kenny.
The player, who is currently the leading hitman in the Premier Division, has refused to speak publicly following the incident, preferring instead to assist the investigation into the controversy which is to be carried out by the Airtricity League of Ireland.
However, Kenny held the view that he must support his player and he lashed out at the Rovers player who is alleged to have made the remark.
Indeed, having spoken to Zayed, the Dubliner insisted that Derry City “ would not tolerate the racial abuse of any player.”
He went on: “Knowing Eamon as well as I do, I do not believe for one moment that he would make this up and Derry City would certainly not tolerate any players being abused in this way.
“I was a premediated action, not a reaction to a tackle or anything like that. After Eamon had netted the equaliser, an opposing player ran over to him and made a racist remark - it was a premediated and calculated action,” blasted Kenny.
“Eamon has acted professionally. He informed the referee on the night and refused to discuss his difficulty in public.
“And I’ve no doubt that he will continue to answer such abuse by continuing to score goals and, at the same time, retain his dignity as a professional footballer.
“However, having been the victim of similar treatment in the past, it has upset him as it would upset any other individual, but one thing is for sure, he has the full support of everyone associated with Derry City Football Club and our supporters will certainly get behind him,” added Kenny.
“He’s been prolific for us this season which is significant given that he joined a new club at the start of the season. He is enjoying a great run of form as the statistics suggest and I’m confident that he will continue to lead our attack in the same tenacious way he has done despite what has gone on this week,” claimed the Derry boss.
Meanwhile, when interviewed in relation to this evening’s high profile clash at the Lone Moor Road venue, Kenny confirmed that Patrick McEleney has missed training this week due to sickness and remained a doubtful starter for tonight’s game.
“Patrick’s been sick and hasn’t trained this week, so we’ll wait and see how he is before making a decision on his fitness.
“On the other hand, I’m hopeful that Emmet Friars could be available for selection having overcome a hip problem and everyone else is available,” answered Kenny who also faces another home fixture against Sligo Rovers next Tuesday night.
“Visits by Bohemians and Sligo are pivotal games and they are both considered very strong opposition. Bohemians may have a young substitutes’ bench, but they have a strong starting XI. They’ve taken four points off Sligo in their two games against them, so it will be another tough battle.
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“Having drawn our last two games against Pat’s and Rovers, “Having drawn our last two games against Pat’s and Rovers, it’s time we attempted to push back up the table with victories and the difference between taking one point and three can be really significant at this stage of the season.”
Farren on way back?
And he also had news on the progress of striker, Mark Farren, who continues to take part in full-contact training sessions.
“We’re very keen to get Mark back given the fact that Stephen Parkhouse has opted to leave us. He has been training regularly with the first team squad but we must wait for the official go-ahead from the medical people before we can put him back in.
“Mark is also very keen to get back into action, in fact, the quicker the better as far as he is concerned, but we’ve got to wait for precise clarification from the medical people before that can happen.
“Mark is a legend at the club and it would be one of the greatest stories in modern football to see him return to full fitness and resume his career.
“As I’ve said, he’s keen to return and we are keen to have him back. He played a major role for us in the First Division to help get us promoted, he’s been through tough times since and we’re delighted to have him back in the group taking part in full training sessions.
“And while we’re not concerned with Transfer Windows opening for Mark’s return, we must not take any risks. We are awaiting medical clarification on his condition and once that’s been made clear to us, then Mark’s return will, no doubt, be warmly welcomed during the second half of the current season,” concluded Kenny.