Belfast Telegraph

Linfield may switch off Setanta

By Graham Luney

Linfield’s future in the Setanta Sports Cup is suddenly hanging in the balance again.

The Irish League champions would be more than happy to live without the negative headlines that has the potential to damage the club’s reputation and image.

Derry City will feel exactly the same way. While the overwhelming majority of supporters of both clubs simply want to watch their side play in a welcoming environment, it seems that there will always be a few sectarian morons intent on using football to express their hatred.

After his visit to Windsor Park for the opening leg of the Setanta Cup quarter-final, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness expressed a desire to see an All-Ireland League but events at the Brandywell on Tuesday night have brought an abrupt end to that discussion.

Linfield, because of their big following, have been faced with strict security arrangements in this competition. It has been a real headache for the club and fans, who in the past were unhappy at the format at the competition.

But the supporters recognised it as something new and imaginative — and along with other Irish League fans — have been willing to embrace the concept.

And it is a tournament and concept that deserves to thrive but for how long are sectarian morons, from either side, going to keep crawling out from under rocks?

The appetite for the competition in the Windsor Park boardroom must now be diminishing.

Is it worth the hassle? While police should deal with trouble makers, clubs should not allow the cowardly behaviour of a few to ruin the game for everyone else but some Linfield officials are certain to question the benefits of remaining in the competition.

The Blues, stung by claims of trouble at the end of the game, issued a statement yesterday saying the club was investigating what happened.

The statement read: “Linfield Football Club condemn without reservation the alleged stone throwing from whatever quarter that occurred before and after the Setanta Sports Cup match at the Brandywell.

“A sizeable security operation had been put in place to ensure that this match would take place in the best interests of sport.

“Contrary to how it has been portrayed by certain sections of the media, to which Linfield FC take great exception, the vast majority of Linfield supporters entered and exited the allocated seating areas in the stadium in an exemplary manner under the control of Linfield FC stewards and a private security firm engaged by this club.

“It is regrettable that a small element of the Linfield support reacted to the aggressive and provocative behaviour of two Derry City stewards and a number of local residents but the Club are sure that the vast majority of our impeccably behaved supporters who attended the game would join us in utterly condemning those Linfield supporters who were involved in any unseemly behaviour.

“Linfield Football Club will carry out a full debrief on all events surrounding the game and where necessary, take appropriate action and until such time as this investigation has been concluded, the club will be making no further comment.”

In previous years, Linfield boss David Jeffrey (pictured) had felt the tournament was a distraction to their league assault.

Blues chairman Jim Kerr said competition fees didn’t even cover travelling expenses. As far back as 2008, Linfield were unhappy at the games being played on a Saturday. That year, the club threatened to withdraw from the competition after violence in Dublin. Six people were arrested in disturbances during the match between Linfield and St Pat's Athletic.

A few Linfield and Derry City supporters dragged their club’s names through the mud on Tuesday night. There were no winners and the tournament itself could be the biggest loser.

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