DERRY City may have been disappointed that their appeal to rescind Shane McEleney’s red card fell on deaf ears, but the local club had predicted the outcome.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports.
In fact, in Derry’s ‘Participation Agreement,’ it clearly states that clubs can only appeal a red card in cases of mistaken identity and, as a result, the Derry centre-back must serve his one match ban by sitting out tonight’s high profile visit of Shamrock Rovers.
Having been made aware of the rules in the agreement, Brandywell boss Declan Devine refused to get carried away with the decision as had already been focusing on who would replace the 21-years-old defender.
“We really didn’t expect to get the red card overturned but, as a matter of interest, we opted to appeal to test the water. The result was what he had expected, but I think our players must now learn from the experience.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the referee’s decision was influenced by the large crowd at Oriel Park last Friday night. The vociferous attendance had a major impact in the referee making the decision and given that he had awarded us two penalties, then maybe he felt it would only be fair to try to level matters.
“I also believe that our supporters must learn from the experience. The large crowd played it’s part and I think an energetic, hostile attendance at the Brandywell would do us no harm,” declared Devine.
“But we’ve since accepted the decision and we will move on. As has always been the case, Shane’s misfortune now becomes a window of opportunity for another player who was not involved in Dundalk.”
Refusing to identify who would actually accompany Ryan McBride in the heart of the Derry defence tonight, Devine agreed that while Dermot McCaffrey and Barry Molloy had already played at centre-back, he had options.
“We have options for every position in the team and while Stewart Greacen’s absence has not helped matters, a decision on who will move into the back four will be made closer to the kick-off on Friday night,” continued the Creggan man.
He also agreed that McEleney’s height would be missed, particularly in set-piece situations against Rovers’ physical presence.
“Make no mistake about it, Shane is a huge loss for us as he has been one of our outstanding players so far this season. He has added so much to his game and his inclusion has certainly benefited the team overall.
“However, as we have already seen this season, football can be a very strange game and Shane’s absence will present an opportunity for another player to step up to the plate and impress.”
It’s unlikely, however, that Devine would opt to bring Molloy into the back four given his hard-working contribution in the midfield area, so it’s fair to suggest that McCaffrey could well make his first league start this season at centre-half.
Indeed, that’s the only change expected in the team which defeated Dundalk 1-3 and Devine is preparing his troops for what could prove a particularly difficult and tricky encounter.
“Like ourselves, Rovers have conceded just three goals this season, so they are clearly very strong defensively. They’re replaced their top striker from last year, Gary Twigg, with another of the league’s leading scorers in Mark Quigley and they have added even more players to their large first team squad,” noted the Derry boss.
In addition to Sligo’s main hitman, Rovers have also added top quality individuals such as Kieran Kilduff, Daniel Ledwith from UCD while Sean O’Connor and James Chambers have also moved to Tallaght from St. Pat’s. Karl Sheppard has returned home from Reading on loan and, of course, Rovers will arrive at the Lone Moor Road venue on the back of last weekend’s 7-0 thrashing of Bray Wanderers.
“They are big and strong but they have drawn quite a few games this season. That said, they remain undefeated. So Trevor Croly may have a strong side at his disposal but, then again, we’re not that bad either having enjoyed a draw and five victories in our last six matches,” smiled Devine.
“We seem to have developed a policy of respecting the opposition but, at the same time, being patient and willing to test them out over the course of the game. Obviously we want to extend our excellent sequence of victories and I’ve no doubt that our players will raise to the challenge posed by Rovers on Friday night. It will be tough, but we will be well prepared and ready for this fixture.”
While McEleney is ruled out due to suspension, Kevin Deery (knee), Stewart Greacen (knee) and Sean Houston (hamstring) all remain in the Brandywell treatment room.