Derry City FC board member Tony O’Doherty has warned that any repeat of the gang attacks witnessed after last night’s match against Dundalk could have serious implications for the future of the club.
Mr O’Doherty said that Derry City has tried to do all in its power to stamp out attacks on visiting fans, and issued a call out for anyone who felt they had fresh ideas about how to resolve the matter to get in touch.
Mr O’Doherty was speaking after reports that a 14-year-old Dundalk fan was bottled in the back of a head and an older fan pushed to the ground. A minibus which had ferried fans from Dundalk to Derry was also attacked.
The attacks took place in the Lecky Road area last night away from the grounds after Dundalk defeated Derry 2-1 in the FAI Semi-Final at the Brandywell.
Mr O’Doherty said the club was trying to gather the facts of what happened and would be contacting Dundalk FC officials later today.
He said: “First of all our thoughts are with Dundalk fans who had their minibus trashed and who were physically attacked.
“If this were to continue- I don’t think I’m exaggerating- the continuation of senior football could be affected.
“The club would be very foolish to ignore that this could have an effect on its ability to play in the League of Ireland.
“Quite literally it could have serious implications for the club, and even more importantly, if they do not desist, someone is going to end up being seriously hurt or worse.”
He added: “There has been a pattern this season and unfortunately we are now recognised as not the friendliest club in Ireland, which we were for years.”
Mr O’Doherty said that if anyone can come forward with any measures that have not already been taken, the club were ready and willing to sit down with them.
He said that the club has already increased security, attended meetings with residents and local councillors, as well as meetings with statutory agencies and the PSNI to try and address the problem.
The match itself, he said, was packed, with no trouble at all, no-one ejected from the grounds, and both sets of fans leaving together after a terrific game in which, he said, Derry’s players did the club proud.
“The stewards do a tremendous job and did again last night, and there was not one incident in the grounds,” he said.
He said that the club legally however could not extend its security obligations beyond the gates of the Brandywell, but added that morally, Derry City felt they had a responsibility to try and help end such attacks.
Speaking about the gangs behind the violence, he said: “I can state categorically that they are not fans”.
“The reality is this is a social phenomenon that is happening across the island. It a problem for society but unfortunately we are caught in the middle.”
Mr O’Doherty said that the club’s host community in the Brandywell have been “very tolerant towards us and very good to us”.
“We exist by the grace of our host community but they must be getting sick and sore of this. We are going to need help from a lot of people on this one,” he added.