Paddy Barrett’s red card gifts Derry three points against Shelbourne

Damien Duff’s tactical changes come undone as Ryan Graydon goal puts Candystripes top

Shelbourne 0 Derry City 1

(Graydon 11)

Derry City go top of the premier division, gathering three points under misty conditions and on a bumpy surface, mainly because Damien Duff’s tactical twist went badly awry.

What might have been if Shelbourne stayed at 11 men? Or referee Paul McLaughlin bought what Kyle Robinson was selling in injury time when the Shels sub collapsed in the Derry box?


In a scrappy affair, Derry created four goal chances in the opening 15 minutes. They took one and never looked back.

Shelbourne should have trailed after 90 seconds when Jamie McGonigle controlled a flick on, rounding Conor Kearns only for Paddy Barrett to clear off the line. Barrett had an eventful evening, which ended prematurely after he collected a few too many scalps.

Ryan Graydon’s goal came after Will Patching’s free-kick was tipped over by Kearns. From the Patching corner, Tyreke Wilson appeared to lose Graydon, gifting the winger a tap in. Wilson might contest this theory, instantly passing blame to a team-mate.

Next, Ben Doherty’s pace left two Shels defenders for dust but Kearns did well to save with his feet.

A damp Tolka Park gets in your bones. The barn roof over the main stand was leaking. If Hull City owner Acun Ilicali’s plan to add Shelbourne FC to his multi-club-model goes the way of Southampton owners Sport Republic – who recently withdrew their interest – the Drumcondra club might apply for the €30,000 grant handed out by the Heritage Council to conserve old farm buildings.

If the pitch, which was recently lambasted by Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley, looked bumpy beforehand, it was cut to shreds by half-time.

Both managers, Duff and Ruaidhrí Higgins, are former members of Stephen Kenny’s management. Neither lasted long as the League of Ireland needs them more than their country does. The clash of philosophies was compelling; Derry employ France’s 4-2-3-1 system to Shels 5-4-1 box-shaped midfield.

Not much else was comparable to last Monday night at the Aviva, except Patrick McEleney’s passable impression of Eduardo Camavinga and a similar gulf in individual quality.

Shels gave the visitors ample opportunity to be out of sight by the turn. John Ross Wilson took an early knock, which forced Shane Farrell to right wing back and gave Ireland under-21 Kian Leavy a chance to impress off the bench. Leavy’s first contribution was to control, turn and back heel the ball out of play. He also blazed over an open net having tracked Jack Moylan, who turned Shane McEleney inside out, only for Brian Maher to stay big and save at his near post.

Ollie O’Neill showed solidarity with his Ireland team-mate by knocking Patching’s neat pass over the crossbar. To be fair, he still had Kearns to beat.

Duff reacted to Derry’s dominance by changing to a four man defence, replacing captain Luke Byrne on his 100th appearance and Evan Caffrey with JJ Lunney and Mark Coyle.

Barrett was enticed to Shels this season to bring steel and experience to a young squad but the manager’s tactical tweak back fired spectacularly when the 29 year old received a second yellow card early in the second half.

Shels, suddenly down three of their staring defenders, could hardly complain. Barrett was lucky to avoid a straight red, the first booking came for a foul on O’Neill, as McLaughlin signalled an elbow on McGonigle.

McLaughlin was not done. Whatever Duff uttered when Doherty avoided yellow for a blatant foul, the crowd were braced for their gaffer to see red. A caution sufficed but the game was up.

Derry return to the summit on goal difference as Bohemians do not play Sligo Rovers until Saturday night. Meanwhile, Shamrock Rovers finally won a league match, beating Dundalk 4-0. It only took them seven spins, which has allowed Higgins’ men open a seven-point lead on the champions.

There is a title race brewing.

Shelbourne: Kearns; JR Wilson (Leavy 23), Griffin, Byrne (Coyle HT), Barrett, T Wilson (Ledwidge 80); Caffrey (Lunney HT), Molloy; Moylan (Robinson 79), Smith; Farrell.

Derry City: Maher; Coll, S McEleney, McJannet, Doherty; Diallo (Boyce 80), P McEleney; Graydon, Patching, O’Neill (McEneff 72); McGonigle (Kavanagh 90)

Referee: Paul McLaughlin.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent