Healy does League few favours at Brandywell
IT'S meant to be the season of goodwill to all men. It was to have been a celebrated contest between the leading two teams in the league. But this summit meeting left a cloud over the domestic game which will linger for a long while.
Pressure will undoubtedly mount on the Derry manager, Felix Healy, to resign or for the club's board to take some action against him after he came on to the pitch at the end of the first half and remonstrated with referee Paddy Dempsey about his failure to book James Coll for three early fouls from behind on Gary Beckett before appearing to punch Coll in the ensuing altercation between the two.
Coll, who had joined Healy and Dempsey, retaliated, and even though it may only have been a push, he cannot be deemed blameless either for his part in scenes that reflected badly on the National League. Others became involved in anarchic bad tempered exchanges, including an incensed Turlough O'Connor. He later condemned Healy for comments made from the dug out and for initiating the fracas, while Dempsey later claimed he was showered in water by a Bohemians person.
Thankfully, the Bohemians manager and players were dissuaded from not returning to the pitch for the second half and the game was completed. However, that three Bohemians directors should decide never to attend the Brandywell is also decidedly unfortunate, serving as it does to focus further attention on Derry's unique position in the league.
Bohemians have had five players sent off at the Brandywell in the 90s and, according to O'Connell, "officials are not in control of games in the Brandywell."
This is all decidedly regrettable, possibly forestalling some entente cordial between the two clubs and may intensify the pressure on Healy unless apologies are made and quickly. An intense, sometimes highly strung individual, Healy had recently been dissuaded from resigning as Derry manager. His departure was likely to come at the end of the season anyway, and may now come sooner.
Ironically, Derry's teams under Healy have been noted for their much improved discipline. Indeed, they had the best disciplinary record of all Premier Division clubs last season and as he pointed out himself, no outfield player has ever been dismissed in his rein. "Discipline is an important make up of this team and I let myself down there today."
Bohemians, pretty much in control up until the interval furore, were undoubtedly the worse for what happened and Healy accepted that "it definitely changed the course of the game.
This was compounded within three minutes of the resumption when James Keddy's through ball released Liam Coyle up the left and his cross was charged down by Paul Doolin amid claims of handball. Somewhat surprisingly Dempsey was pointing to the penalty spot, to which he was adjacent.
It was a harsh enough decision. You see them given but more often not, as was the case when Doolin more obviously committed the same offence without punishment against UCD at Belfield earlier this season.
Bohemians' sense of injustice was hardened when Beckett duly steered the penalty low out of Dave Henderson's reach to the goalkeeper's right. Realistically, there was no way back after that.
Beforehand, they had been much the better team without being that penetrative. Derry were afforded little space between the Bohemians' back four and the midfield quartet. Apart from a couple of runs by Tom Mohan and Sean Hargan, Derry created only one moment of note playing into the first half wind when Beckett out muscled Coll to a through ball by Tom Mohan before sending a well struck angled drive just wide.
The estimated four to 5,000 Brandywell crowd were in one of their more muted moods, save for perceived grievances over refereeing decisions, most notably the challenges by Coll on Beckett, and a couple of comparatively innocuous ones by ex Derry player Doolin, the second of which earned him a yellow card. Doolin came closest for Bohemians with a dipping 36th minute drive before heading an Eoin Mullen free over at the far post.
Once the game was turned on it's head by Coll's dismissal and the penalty, Derry briefly flickered to life, Liam Coyle volleying a dropping ball just wide and wastefully heading a Keddy free downward either side of the skillful Beckett testing Henderson.
Thereafter though, they struggled over the winning line unconvincingly Tony O'Connor just being hauled back by a combination of Gavin Dykes and Darren Kelly after a wonderful interception and long ball by Maurice O'Driscoll.
But the football itself had long since been overshadowed.