KENNY SHIELS claims he can understand the criticism levelled at Derry City for setting up a ‘Satellite Centre’ on rivals, Finn Harps’ home patch and says he would be ‘grossly offended’ if the Ballybofey club were to do the same in Derry.
However, the Derry City boss defended the club’s decision to set up the first of its footballing Satellite Centres at Curragh Athletic FC’s ground in Killygordon - just 7km from Finn Park - yesterday evening as the ‘Candy Stripes’ attempt to branch out and increase its catchment area for potential new recruits.
The club announced its plans on Sunday evening and it resulted in a vicious backlash on social media as Harps fans felt their North West rivals were muscling in on their area.
And as the row rumbles on ahead of the first meeting between the clubs on the opening day of the season on March 4th in Ballybofey, Shiels claims Derry are fully entitled to open up a centre, stating he’s delighted to ‘steal a march’ on his nearest rivals.
“It’s an open book,” said Shiels. “We have no hidden agendas. And there’s nothing to prevent Finn Harps starting one and I’m sure they will want to do that in the future.
“But we have to be ahead of the pack,” he continued. “Football is a competitive industry and if we’re a march ahead of Finn Harps then I take that as a compliment if they think we’re muscling in. That means we’re showing initiative and we’re innovative in what we do.
“I don’t mind criticism because if someone came onto my patch and set up a centre I would be offended. I would be grossly offended but I would look at my own house and ask ‘why have we not done that?’
“We’re all working together to help establish links and put the name of Derry City out there.
“We’re not doing anything to jeopardise Finn Harps in any way. It’s all about promoting our club and giving young players some coaching time. They can still sign for Finn Harps. We’re not promising anything, we’re just coaching them - that’s all.
“We’re establishing links. And I’m sure Finn Harps could so the same in Derry if they wanted to. That’s their prerogative.”
Derry City has always had strong links in Co. Donegal and in particular, Inishowen with players such as Gareth McGlynn, Mark Farren, Kevin McHugh and most recently Sean Houston, Barry McNamee and Cillian Morrison all representing the Brandywell outfit.
And Shiels believes it’s an area with plenty of potential.
“It’s geographically logical. If you look at the areas we’re missing out on. Strabane have always produced really good players . We have 30 or 40 kids on our books and I don’t think there’s any from Strabane. So that means there’s a deficiency in how we work and we have to be pro-active and professional and cover every area we can.”