Belfast Telegraph

Derry chief urges Linfield not to quit Setanta Cup

By Graham Luney

Derry City chairman Philip O’Doherty has pleaded with Linfield not to quit the Setanta Sports Cup tournament — and he insisted that relationships between the two clubs would not be damaged by a few violent incidents at Tuesday night’s game.

Declan Devine’s side won the Setanta Sports Cup quarter-final second leg clash 3-1 to seal a 4-2 aggregate win, booking a semi-final date with Shamrock Rovers.

It was a thrilling showdown at the Brandywell in front of big crowd and electric atmosphere but some ugly scenes after the final whistle marred the contest.

Houses near the ground were attacked, windows were broken on buses carrying Linfield fans, Derry City director Martin Mullan said he had to flee from a group of fans and O’Doherty said he was spat on and needed to wash his hair afterwards.

Both sets of fans were adequately segregated inside the venue but fencing erected to take Linfield fans to and from the stand was penetrated.

The PSNI, who removed some alcohol from Linfield buses, made one arrest.

O’Doherty was upset by some of the unsavoury scenes but he is keen to stress that no-one was seriously hurt.

And he hopes the Blues don’t pull the plug on their participation in the all-Ireland tournament.

“I totally condemn the attacks on the buses and sectarian chanting,” said O’Doherty.

“There were a few missiles thrown and stewards had to intervene to stop Mr Mullan from being attacked.

“It’s very disappointing to see but thankfully no-one was seriously hurt and I thought the game was a very exciting one.

“I think Derry City supporters and the fans of other Airtricity clubs want to see Linfield play against us. It’s always good to take on the best teams in Ireland and they play a great, passing game.

“Relations between the two clubs have not always been great but they have improved and we worked closely together in sorting out the arrangements for this game. For the most part, those plans worked but I’d like to think relations between the clubs will remain strong.

“I was at a Linfield-Ballymena United game recently and we are always treated very well at Windsor Park. The supporters just want to see two great teams going for it.”

Candystripes chiefs and Derry City Council bosses will now review security and policing arrangements and conclude where segregation could be enhanced for future matches. In one of the more serious incidents, Mr Mullan said he was spat at and pursued by Blues fans. He said: “They could have killed me, they had it in their eyes, they shouted: ‘There's the manager, or there's the director, let's kill him.’

“The evil in some of their faces has left me extremely shaken.

“How our stewards held themselves together, they were taking serious, serious abuse.”

O’Doherty added: “About five guys were trying to get him and the quick action of the stewards saved him.

“But overall, compared to matches in the past, the amount of trouble was not as bad.

“These incidents are not very pleasant but we should keep things in perspective.

“Linfield are still a first class club and we want to meet them again in the Setanta Cup.

“We have seen a few shocks in this competition and it does have value.”

A PSNI spokesman said: “Follow-up inquiries will be carried out in relation to the public disorder.

“Anyone with information is asked to contact police in Foyle on 0845 600 8000.

“Or, if someone would prefer to provide information without giving their details, they can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers and speak to then anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

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