GENEROUS KENNY Shiels jumped to the aid of 17 stranded Derry City fans after their minibus broke down outside Tallaght Stadium on Friday night
The vehicle carrying the Red Partisans Supporters’ Club came to an abrupt halt on Whitestown Way, just yards from the stadium following City’s 2-0 defeat to Shamrock Rovers.
Left with a ‘serious dilemma’ the group of die-hard supporters were hugely appreciative of the kind gesture from Shiels who insisted: ‘we’ll not leave any supporter behind’ as he offered them onto the team coach. However, there were stipulations - no alcohol on board the rather subdued team bus!
Having watched the group of supporters hopelessly attempt to jump-start their mini-bus, Derry City coach driver, Nigel Skuce explained how Shiels had no hesitation in offering the troubled fans a lift back up the M50 when they were approached.
“Well, they didn’t want to be left in Tallaght, let’s be honest,” smiled Nigel. “They came over and it was Kenny who gave the go ahead.
“Kenny made a real good point and said: ‘we’ll not leave any supporter behind’. His only worry was we didn’t have enough seats but there was 17 in total.
“They were pushing the bus back down towards us and a couple of guys came over and asked us if there was any room on our bus. To do that after a defeat, and Kenny was very gracious in defeat, but it was a nice touch.
"The supporters are the backbone of the club at the end of the day and that’s Kenny’s belief too. I think a few of them were star-struck being on the team bus and all. It was a quiet bus though.”
Nigel, a driver for Magherafelt company, J&K Coaches Ltd, has been ferrying Derry City players up and down the country since 2003. And amazingly it wasn’t the first time the Derry City team coach has needed to come to the rescue of supporters left by the roadside.
“I don’t think it’s the first time it happened. It happened in Galway a while back as well.”
Nigel also remembers being in a similar situation with the Derry team and then manager, Declan Devine in Tallaght after the club’s FAI Cup 2012 semi-final victory over Shamrock Rovers when the team coach broke down on the side of the motorway. So he had some empathy for the Red Partisan Supporters.
“I’ve been at the roadside myself with the team,” he recalled. “I remember when Decky Devine was manager, the coach threw a belt when we were playing Rovers as well. I managed to get the team to a hotel and got them to Tallaght again so it can happen.
"We were always told if you see a bus load of passengers at the side of the road and you have seats then you never drive by them. That’s bus protocol.”
After a long but comfortable return journey the grateful Derry fans were dropped safely back in the city centre, making that under-par display in Tallaght from their team a little more tolerable.
Long time Candy Stripes supporter, Adrian McGowan was of those left by the roadside and he explained how it was their last resort to approach the Derry City team bus.
"We got the bus from George's Bar but we were left snookered," he said. "We couldn't do anything else. We were hanging about outside the Maldron Hotel and then decided to go over to the bus.
"Kenny asked us for a couple of minutes to chat to the players and told us we could get on but there was to be no drinking. We got on and they got us home thank God."
Adrian admitted he was fearing the worst when they failed to get their mini-bus started after several attempts.
"We pushed the bus from outside the Maldron but it wouldn't start and the bus driver just parked it in the car park. "Last resort was to ask the team bus and they pulled us out of a serious dilemma.
"You have to hand it to them because they've been getting nothing but abuse and getting a lot of stick recently. We can't thank Kenny Shiels and the bus driver, Nigel enough.
"The last six weeks or so and with the pricing of the European tickets, the club hasn't done itself any favours. The manager and the players get a lot of stick but this is a positive story for the club and thankfully we all got home safe and sound."
Red Partisans member, Paul O'Donnell added: "Fair play to Kenny Shiels and the team for letting us on. It just sums up League of Ireland football in a nutshell."