Derry City manager 'baffled' by Shamrock Rovers' team-sheet

Derry City manager Ruaidhri Higgins manager conceded that his side deserved their defeat to Shamrock Rovers on Friday night but was critical of the situation surrounding the Rovers team sheet Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

Airtricity League Premier Division: Derry City 2 Shamrock Rovers 4

DERRY City manager Ruaidhri Higgins admitted he was 'baffled' by Shamrock Rovers' team-sheet, which was changed just on a few occasions before their 4-2 loss on Friday night.

The Dubliners had a Covid-19 related case in their camp which lead to the confusion ahead of kick-off. Derry raced into a 2-0 lead through Ronan Boyce's 20th minute strike and a second from Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe 11 minutes later. Graham Burke pulled a goal back four minutes before the break for Rovers and second half goals from Ronan Finn, Rory Gaffney and Richie Towell sealed the points for the champions

In a crazy situation, the majority of the Rovers players drove to the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium separately in their own cars, while the U19 squad also travelled in two buses along with Stephen Bradley and his coaching staff, as back-up if the Hoops had been told to stand down most or any of their squad.

In the end Sean Gannon, who originally was named in the starting 11 and trained on his own during the warm-up, was pulled minutes before kick-off and replaced by skipper Ronan Finn, who had originally been listed as a substitute.

With Gannon now out of the squad completely, the champions then drafted in Richie Towell onto the bench and the whole procedure frustrated the Derry boss.

"It was very confusing," conceded Higgins. "You see players on the phone during the warm-up. I don't know what was going on, it was baffling.

"(Rory) Gaffney was named on the team sheet and then moved to the bench. Sean Gannon was named in the team and then wasn't in the squad. So it's something I've never seen in football before and it was baffling to be honest.

"The result is probably what we deserved based on the second half performance and I have no complaints on that end but I just felt there was a lack of communication or whatever you want to call it.

"But it was the first time I was involved in a game of football where you get handed the team sheet just as you're about to go warm-up. It's never happened before."

Higgins's former Dundalk team-mate Towell wasn't listed in the Rovers squad, but the Limavady man knew the ex-Salford City man was involved when he seen him kitted out sitting amongst the substitutes in the Mark Farren Stand.

"When I saw him sitting in the stand behind with his gear on I realised he was in the squad. The team sheet came in and he wasn't on it and then he ended up being on the bench. It's very, very strange to say the least," he admitted.

"We've lost the game to a better team than us tonight. It's as simple as that but the goings on were slightly strange."

Rovers manager Stephen Bradley confirmed the club had a Covid problem after the game and praised his players for how they dealt with the whole situation.

"Out of respect for the staff member that have Covid, I won't go into the details of it but there was a Covid issue and today (Friday) has been hectic to be honest with you preparing for the game," insisted Bradley.

"We had eight or nine players, maybe more, who drove up themselves. It's been crazy right up until 45 minutes before kick-off, it was crazy.

"Credit to the players, they dealt with it really well. We had to wait for clearance and we didn’t get it for certain players.”

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