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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Stuart Byrne

Stuart Byrne column: Will Patching showing the way forward for brilliant Derry City

I haven’t looked forward to a game this much in a long, long time and it should be a cracker at Tallaght Stadium tonight.

Derry City have coughed up a six-point lead over Shamrock Rovers and now trail them by a point.

But I wouldn’t read too much into that. And I don’t think the title race is over if the Hoops win tonight and stretch it to four.

I’ve seen a lot of Derry and they are a brilliant side - really, really good to watch.

Their ego might be a little bruised after seeing that lead evaporate but it’s nothing more than a minor psychological blow.

Last season, it briefly threatened to be a two-horse race for the title between Shamrock Rovers and St Pat’s.

But that only lasted until the end of the summer and Rovers pulled away. But Derry are a big improvement on St Pat’s.

And I’m convinced that no matter what happens tonight, they can push Rovers all the way this year.

They are building under Ruaidhri Higgins and nobody expects them to win the title this year, so they can let the shackles off a little. All the pressure is on Rovers.

Derry are expected to be without Patrick McEleney as he aggravated a hamstring injury after coming off the bench against St Pat’s on Monday.

But Will Patching’s emergence as a key man in this Derry side will cushion the blow.

Derry City’s Patrick McEleney celebrates after the late, late win over Bohs at Dalymount Park in April (©INPHO/Ryan Byrne)

Unfortunately injuries come with the territory when you sign McEleney. You know you won’t get a full season out of him, so you manage him as best you can.

Higgins may well park him in order to have him firing for Europe.

And he can afford to do that as Patching has been so influential. He’s a similar type of player and is flourishing.

There’s a swagger to his play and what I really like about Patching is his attitude.

He has really responded to McEleney’s arrival this season. He embraced the competition by sticking out his chest and stepping up to the plate.

That’s the positive reaction a manager looks for when they bring in quality players like McEleney.

And when you have that, you have a football team.

Because Patching could have gone the other way. He could have sulked around the place and gone into his shell. I’ve seen it happen.

I'll be at the game tonight and I genuinely can’t wait for it.

At this stage of the season, the cobwebs have been blown off and both teams are going full pelt.

Stephen Bradley’s decision to stay has galvanised the players and Graham Burke is so angry at being on the bench that he goes and smashes a hat-trick on Monday.

I love that!

Both teams are flying and I’d put a line through Derry’s last two draws. They battered St Pat’s and it just wasn’t their night.

Tallaght is the best stadium in the country, it’s the best pitch in the country and we've the top two teams who want to get the ball down and play.

Throw in the live TV cameras and I fail to see how this won’t be a great advertisement for the league.


Bohs and Dublin City Council have given themselves an out if the proposed redevelopment of Dalymount Park becomes too expensive.

And, to be honest, I prefer this Plan B that was mentioned in media reports yesterday because it would see Tolka Park and Richmond Park brought up to scratch too.

The ‘Save Tolka Park’ campaign has been a major breakthrough in the mindset of politicians and people who follow the game here.

Every dog on the street knows the biggest problem with Irish football is the dire state of the grounds.

The fact that DCC has a Plan B - to keep the existing main stand in Dalymount and build two new ones - shows that people power works.

The people behind the ‘Save Tolka Park’ campaign urged DCC to think through all aspects of this ongoing saga.

The world has changed and people have influence. You only have to look back at the outcry over the Super League.

For now, DCC will push ahead with the original Dalymount redevelopment plans.

But they are still looking at Bohs, Shels and Pats as a package and saying what can we potentially do to help.

The Shamrock Rovers model has been a huge success. South Dublin County Council have developed Tallaght Stadium in conjunction with the club and that’s the model.

Work is now underway on the fourth stand and it’s going to look fantastic.

If DCC eventually go with Plan B because of spiralling costs, I don’t think it will be a kick in the teeth for Bohs.

In fact, I think it would be the right call.

For starters, Dalymount is limited to a 6,500 capacity with the current plans and that’s just two small.

There will be no scope to improve that capacity either.

But if they keep the Jodi Stand as it is and build the two new stands, capacity will be north of 8,000.

I could be dead when this happens, but I’m certain we’ll eventually attract weekly crowds of 8,000-10,000 at matches.

I work in the city centre and Dublin is expanding. The population is growing.

So if there’s an option on the table right now to develop Dalymount Park, Tolka Park and Richmond Park together, we would be mad to turn it down.


Any time I’ve seen Shelbourne this season, it was for work but I went to Tolka Park last week as a spectator.

They were good value for the win over Sligo Rovers and getting that first home win of the season was a monkey off the back for Duffer.

But I won’t lie, I was there on a bit of a networking mission too.

I’m working on a few projects and one of them is very close to getting up and running in the next few months.

Let’s just say it’s a passion that I’ve always had in my head and will be a platform for those who don’t have a voice in the game.

Watch this space.

But I’ve finally learned that you can’t do things on your own. Sometimes you have to remove that stubborn head and ask people to help.


I was chatting to James Brown this week about his move to Blackburn Rovers from Drogheda United.

He’s having a good go at it anyway, and it was great to see him make his Championship debut.

In football, you always hear people say that making the breakthrough is down to luck and people seizing their chance.

Well Jimmy epitomises that.

James Balagizi of Liverpool and James Brown of Blackburn Rovers in action during a PL2 game (Getty Images)

Quite often you will have no idea when that chance comes around.

Blackburn offered Jimmy a three-day trial and some people told him not to go and to say thanks, but no thanks.

But he said why not, I’ve nothing to lose.

And look at him now. A life changing decision and a great story.

Moral of the story? Don’t overthink things. Take risks and give it a go.

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