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.
he 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.
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.Kenny Shiels
“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.”
Derry City’s ‘Satellite Centre’ in Killygordon is the first of several planned to be set up by the club.
And Shiels revealed the ‘Candy Stripes’ will be concentrating on areas such as Strabane, Limavady and even Omagh in search of the best young talent in the North West.
“We’ve met with the Derry & District F.A. and are establishing links in as many places as we can,” said the Derry boss. “We’ve covered Inishowen and now we need to go to other parts of Donegal, Strabane and those outlying areas, because there’s good players in Limavady, Dungiven, Greysteel as well, so that’s something that hasn’t been done here.
“I don’t think anyone can blame us for being very pro-active.
“And we will have a centre in Derry very soon,” he promised. “We’re just looking at getting a venue set up for that. What we must not do is charge people money. I wouldn’t be part of that for one second!”
Indeed, Shiels stressed that the new centres are not established for commercial reasons and that no money would be made by the club from the venture.
“All we’re doing is building relationships with that part of the country. We’re looking at players from every corner and it makes sense for us.
“Contrary to what’s been said on social media, we’re not doing it for commercial reasons. If we were doing that I would be walking straight away. We do not do commercial things with young players. All we’re doing is going down and coaching the players. From that there’s no pressure put on the players. We’ll be speaking with the parents and we’re not taking them away from their clubs. We’re hoping that when they reach 16 years-old or so they might think they’ve got an affinity to Derry City because I was at their Satellite centre and it might be influential to seeing Derry as a good avenue of pathway to get a career out of - who knows?”
Finn Harps refused to comment but the matter will be addressed at Board level later this week.