‘We need help with facilities’: League of Ireland’s main problem on show in Dublin derby stalemate

Managers of Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers lament pitch’s effect on spectacle as FAI officials watch on

The FAI executive turned out in force at Tolka Park on Monday night as Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers played out a scoreless draw, on a pitch that made the players look technically inept.

“I heard they put a few tons of sand on it during the week,” said Stephen Bradley, the Rovers manager, after the match. “It killed the game really.

“We have Dylan Watts and Conan Noonan in [midfield], as two naturally gifted players as you will get, and it was taking them three-four touches to make a 10-yard pass.”

Damien Duff, the Shels manager, concurred: “If you don’t do your work in the off-season – ie your transfer window – you’ll have a poor squad. If you don’t do your work on the pitch in the off-season, you’ll have a poor pitch.


“Now we are trying to catch up and do work in-season, which is not ideal. Luke Byrne is driving everything in the background, what a wonderful signing [as technical director] he has been. The pitch is going to get better and better. I am built on high standards and I don’t accept anything less.”

FAI director of football Marc Canham was joined in the Tolka Park directors’ box by interim chief executive David Courell and board member Robert Watt.

Afterwards, Bradley pulled no punches when it came to how the latest shortfall in facilities is impacting the domestic game. Without a strong relationship between the FAI and the Government, sustained funding will never happen.

“We’ve all been banging the drum and need to keep banging it,” Bradley said. “I don’t know the ins and outs with the Government, they need to be comfortable handing over money to the right people and understand that it’s going to get spent in the right way.

“Today, it was Kosovo. They’ve committed €200 million to stadiums. In 10 years’ time we’ll be wondering why they’ve gone ahead and we’re still stuck. We need investment. Crowds are good. I believe the teams are good. Managers are good. We need help with facilities, everyone across the board, because, like you see tonight, [the pitch] doesn’t help anyone.”

Almost 5,000 fans were in attendance in Drumcondra on Monday, with Canham surrounded by the cream of domestic coaches as his search for a Republic of Ireland men’s manager stretches to next September.

Neither Duff nor Bradley are being considered for a job that has been vacant since November 22nd, although both feel that informal approaches to them by the FAI were badly executed.

Duff previously described the process, led by Canham, as “embarrassing” while last week Bradley said: “When people come and look at you for jobs and you speak to them, the last thing you look at is the team. It is: ‘Who am I working for? Who am I going to be dealing with day to day?’ If that’s not right, or they don’t feel it’s right, I’m sure that will play a part in their decision. I just hope they get the right person and move on because it’s become a joke.”

Bohemians have experienced a mini-revival since Alan Reynolds took charge last month. The Waterford native sat behind the FAI director of football at Tolka while the recently released Dundalk manager Stephen O’Donnell was two rows in front, not far from his successor at Oriel Park, Noel King, who served as interim Ireland manager between Steve Staunton and Giovanni Trapattoni.

Canham has repeatedly stated that the FAI wants a head coach with “international and club” experience. John O’Shea, who was interim manager in March as Ireland drew with an understrength Belgium and lost 1-0 to Switzerland, has yet to accept the position for the June friendlies against Hungary in Dublin and Portugal in Aveiro.

The upcoming international window has the potential to be another embarrassment for the FAI with fullback Matt Doherty describing the recruitment process as “messy” over the weekend.

“I don’t know what is going on over there,” said the Wolverhampton fullback.

Canham’s search for Stephen Kenny’s successor will run until after Euro 2024, with the latest deadline for an appointment coming before England visit Dublin on September 7th for the opening Nations League tie.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent