Damien Duff claims he would ‘raze Abbotstown to the ground’

Shelbourne manager says St Joseph’s from Gibraltar are organised, compact and difficult to play through

Shelbourne manager Damien Duff: 'I would raze Abbotstown to the ground because it’s the most uninviting unenthusiastic workplace not in world football but in the world.' Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Shelbourne manager Damien Duff has called for the dissolution of the Football Association of Ireland in its current form.

“I would raze Abbotstown to the ground because it’s the most uninviting unenthusiastic workplace not in world football but in the world,” said Duff, who previously worked as an Ireland assistant coach. “I used to dread going in there once a month. So I’d level it and I would probably sack 90 per cent of the workforce.”

Duff was speaking ahead Shels’ first foray into European football since 2006 as they host St Joseph’s of Gibraltar in the Uefa Conference League first-round qualifier at Tolka Park on Thursday night (7.45pm).

Capped 100 times from 1998 to 2012, Duff’s comments came hours before the FAI announced Heimir Hallgrímsson as the new Ireland manager. “Absolutely yes,” said Duff in response to being asked whether Irish football needed a complete reset.


The 45-year-old also paid tribute to the “heroines” who represented Irish football in the 1990s after an RTÉ investigates programme revealed allegations of historic abuse by male coaches against female players. “I watched it with my wife. Listen, I’m not going to get into it deep. All I will say is I probably gripped my children tighter since then. I’ve thought about the ladies, the women in the programme, a lot since then, every day.

“They are absolute heroines for coming out and speaking. I thought there were some powerful people on the show, the women that is. Nobody else outside of that. But as for the association involved and the men involved, I’ve no comment on them. I’ll let somebody else judge them.”

Due to Uefa rules Tolka Park capacity has been reduced to 3,655 for the first leg against St Joseph’s, with the second leg in Gibraltar next Thursday only catering for 200 away fans despite 900 ticket requests.

“They are well organised,” Duff added. “I made a portfolio that took a couple of weeks, that’s been sent to the players. I was laughing to [Joey O’Brien, assistant coach] when I sent it as it could be so far wide of the mark when they turn up tomorrow night.

“I expect 4-4-2, they are really compact, difficult to play through. You can underestimate them but there is a lot of Mediterranean blood in the team and historically Spanish, Portuguese, Brazilian players are more technical players – like what I watched last night [Spain v France] – than Irish players. They are organised, they can frustrated you, all of a sudden you lose your calm, and they hit you on the counterattack, nicking wins against you, like they did two years ago in Larne.

“That’s a brief synopsis but I could have egg on my face, I could be so wide of the mark.”

Derry City also face Gibraltar opposition in Bruno Magpies, with their first leg away before hosting the second leg at the Brandywell on July 18th.

If Shels make the second round they face FC Zurich, while FC Copenhagen await the winners of Derry and Magpies, with both first legs on July 25th. The prize money for reaching round two is €350,000.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent