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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Stuart Byrne

Damien Duff and Kevin Doherty's war of words shows passion and makes a welcome change

How wonderfully refreshing it was to see Damien Duff and Kevin Doherty embroiled in a spicy war of words.

‘Real Shelbourne people’, indeed.

It was such a welcome change from the insipid, coaching manual, cliche quotes that most managers reach for.

Regular readers of the column will know my take on this, but we lose sight of the fact that football is an entertainment industry.

And I want to be entertained, on and off the pitch.

The Shels and Drogs managers traded verbal volleys a week apart, after initially clashing when Drogs won 3-1 at Head in the Game Park.

Last Friday, after the derby draw with Bohs, Duff was pumped up on the final whistle but I loved his chest-beating run across the pitch and up the length of the Riverside Stand.

He then rounded on Doherty who claimed the week before that Duff refused to shake his hand on the sideline, but that “real Shelbourne people” apologised to him over it.

When I played, there was needle everywhere. The games were physical affairs and players and managers wore their hearts on their sleeves.

As I’ve said before, you had managers tearing strips off each other in their weekly newspaper columns. Friday nights were a tinderbox.

You needed to have an edge about you but everyone loved it - fans, players, managers, officials.

It was a proper drama and it’s only now that I’m out of it, that I realise how much I miss it.

Nowadays, we live in a world of ‘cancel culture’. A world that has gone from being politically incorrect to ridiculously correct.

People are afraid to say anything and it’s beyond boring.

Nobody is perfect and people should lose their temper and make mistakes.

That’s what normal people do. That’s what normal people relate to. And it's why I loved Duff's passion last week.

A lot of other football managers just spout predictable drivel and it’s painstaking.

For what it’s worth, I think Damien Duff and Kevin Doherty are both ‘real Shelbourne people’.

I played with Kev at Shels and his parents followed us home and away in every game we played.

He was quiet and reserved but I’ve enjoyed seeing him come out of his shell as a manager because you have to scrap for everything.

I don’t believe Duff or Doherty have any major gripe with each other, it was just their way of articulating how passionate they are.

What I saw was two men fighting for their team - and that’s not lost on the players and supporters.

Duff has been a breath of fresh air. He calls it how he sees it. If Jurgen Klopp ran across the Kop like that, people would be lapping it up.

Stephen Bradley has started celebrating wins in front of the South Stand in Tallaght, and good on him.

It’s a tough job being a manager but we’re blessed with a lot of good, young ones in this league.

If even a handful of them show that they’ve some fight about them, all the better.


Conan Noonan won’t feel it now, but he has all the time in the world to get his career back on track - and he will.

I read about his situation this week, having been stood down from football after heart issues following two bouts of Covid.

He had an irregular heartbeat and was feeling dizzy and hasn’t been allowed to train for five months on medical advice.

That’s hard for any player to get their head around, never mind a 19-year-old kid with his whole career ahead of him.

I know Shamrock Rovers really rate him and Stephen Bradley reckons he could be the most exciting young talent in the league.

I think back to when I was 19 and you want everything to happen right away and if it doesn’t, you get frustrated.

Then you get old, and reflect.

Now, one of my biggest regrets is that I wasn’t patient - but that’s the beauty of wisdom.

Conan has all the time in the world. He may not feel it right now, but his health will recover and we’ll get to see the best of him.

There’s nothing better in football than watching young talent breaking through, and even more so those who have had to overcome adversity.


Shamrock Rovers can attack the Europa Conference League group stages on a united front after securing Tallaght Stadium.

It’s the right call to play their home games in their own backyard, rather than Aviva Stadium, and I’m glad UEFA saw it that way.

It draws a line in the sand and allows everyone at the club, including the players and supporters, to focus on today’s exciting group draw with certainty.

I had it in my own career when there was discussions about playing European games at Tolka Park or moving to Lansdowne Road.

Players and fans don’t need it and now that it’s sorted, it is all systems go for the next three months at least.


I want to wish my old sparring partner Sean Kavanagh all the best as the FAI’s new commercial director.

We played together at Stella Maris, alongside the likes of Trevor Molloy, Glen Crowe and Shaun Maher.

But we went our separate ways when Sean and Trevor were snapped up by Shamrock Rovers, while I went to Bohemians.

Sean was also at Leeds United, so he has a football pedigree and not just a head for the business and commercial world.

I think that’s important going into an organisation like the FAI.

Hopefully we can catch up over a glass of wine….on FAI expenses of course!


Congratulations to Ronan Finn on equalling Gary Rogers’ record of 54 European appearances.

I made 38 myself and remember being third on the all-time list many moons ago.

But it’s a great sign to see other players moving well past those markers, as it shows we’re playing regular European games.

At the time, I questioned why Finn would leave Dundalk in late 2016 and return to Shamrock Rovers as I thought he had more things to win with the Lilywhites.

But I’m happy to be proved wrong. It has been a great move.


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