Derry City boss left baffled by Shamrock Rovers' teamsheet hokey-pokey after positive Covid case

RUAIDHRI HIGGINS was left 'baffled' by Shamrock Rovers' team-sheet hokey-pokey ahead of Derry City's defeat to the champions as a Covid-19 case in the Dubliners' camp caused confusion ahead of kick-off.

Friday, 16th July 2021, 11:50 pm
Updated Saturday, 17th July 2021, 12:10 am
Derry sub, Jamie McGonigle attempts to get to this cross under pressure from Roberto Lopes and Liam Scales
Derry sub, Jamie McGonigle attempts to get to this cross under pressure from Roberto Lopes and Liam Scales

In a bizarre set of circumstances at Brandywell, speculation of a possible Covid outbreak in the Rovers first team mounted when the club's Under-19 team arrived on two separate buses as emergency back-up while several of the senior players arrived separately by car.

Rovers boss Stephen Bradley left it until the last possible opportunity to present his matchday squad which featured wingback Sean Gannon in the starting line-up.

Gannon warmed-up on his own on the Brandywell pitch before being pulled from the squad moments before the teams came out on the pitch after he was deemed a close contact to a staff member who tested positive for Covid and he was replaced by captain Ronan Finn who was originally named on the bench.

Derry manager Higgins was bewildered by the 'lack of communication' and couldn't believe his eyes when watching Rovers' players make phone calls during the pre-match warm-up as they awaited clearance to play the game.

The Limavady man claimed he had never seen such a 'strange' situation and to make matters worse, Richie Towell, who wasn't named in the original team circulated to the media, came off the bench to complete Rovers remarkable comeback in the second half scoring the Tallaght men's fourth goal in the 4-2 win.

"It was very confusing," said Higgins. "You see players on the phone during the warm-up. I don't know what was going on, it was baffling. (Rory) Gaffney was named on the team sheet and then moved to the bench. Sean Gannon was named in the team and then wasn't in the squad. So it's something I've never seen in football before and it was baffling to be honest.

"The result is probably what we deserved based on the second half performance and I have no complaints on that end but I just felt there was a lack of communication or whatever you want to call it. But it was the first time I was involved in a game of football where you get handed the team sheet just as you're about to go warm-up. It's never happened before."

The first Higgins learned of former Brighton and Salford midfielder Towell's involvement in the squad was when he saw him take his place among the substitutes in the Mark Farren stand behind him.

"When I saw him sitting in the stand behind with his gear on I realised he was in the squad. The team sheet came in and he wasn't on it and then he ended up being on the bench. It's very, very strange to say the least.

"I've no idea," he added. "We've lost the game to a better team than us tonight. It's as simple as that but the goings on were slightly strange."

Shedding some light on the matter, Rovers boss Bradley revealed a staff member had tested positive and he admitted the situation threw his pre-match preparations into chaos.

"Out of respect for the staff member that has Covid, I won't go into the details of it but there was a Covid issue and today has been hectic to be honest with you preparing for the game.

"We had eight or nine players, maybe more, who drove up themselves. It's been crazy right up until 45 minutes before kick-off, it was crazy.

"Credit to the players, they dealt with it really well. We had to wait for clearance and we didn’t get it for certain players. The club will make a statement and that will go into more detail once the staff member is alright and we make sure he’s okay.”