Thursday 30 March 2017

The performance was superb advertisement - Richardson

DAMIEN RICHARDSON says that a representative League of Ireland side should continue to compete in the Dublin Super Cup after a weekend where his hastily thrown together selection conceded eight goals without reply, WRITES DANIEL McDONNELL.

The Airtricity selection shipped three against an understrength Manchester City side on Saturday and it was two worse against a fringe Celtic team -- although that final scoreline did not give a fair reflection of the game, with the locals switching off and giving away three goals in a farcical five-minute spell at the death.

Anthony Stokes opened the scoring before half time, before former Waterford star Daryl Murphy doubled the lead with a penalty.

The Hoops finished the job with a late flurry as Gary Hooper struck twice before Stokes rounded off the scoring with a powerful finish off the left-hand post.

Nevertheless, after the dispute in the build-up over payment of players, the embarrassing lack of shower facilities for the Irishmen and then a pair of defeats, it is questionable if the image of the league has benefited from the experience -- especially when most of its better players were missing due to their club's more pressing European commitments.

However, Richardson believes there is a purpose in continuing even if he was reluctant to commit to his own involvement and, at one point in an odd press conference, asked his audience if he should be retained.

"I think the performance was a superb advertisement," he said. "I would always insist that this competition will be of consequence. If you look at the performances of players like Daniel Kearns (Dundalk) and James McClean and Daniel Lafferty (both Derry)... I'm disappointed with the end product against Celtic. But I'm not disappointed with the first 80 minutes. I felt we dictated and dominated for a long period of time."

The competition organisers have mulled over the prospect of selecting just the League of Ireland champions in future, aware that they would give a better account of themselves than a group with just a couple of days' training under their belts.

But if the competition is to take place at this time every year, then a clash with European fixtures is inevitable and Richardson feels that picking one team would be to the detriment of the league as a whole. Given his reputation for fielding sides that produce attacking football, Richardson took a surprisingly cautious approach to the Celtic game in particular.

Neil Lennon's selection was packed with reserves -- Gary Hooper and Anthony Stokes were the only regulars in their starting XI -- yet the Airtricity selection persevered with just Jason Byrne up front.

Richardson justified his team's display by stressing that the teams his players encountered are superior to anything Shamrock Rovers, St Patrick's Athletic and Sligo Rovers will face in Europe this week; a scarcely credible claim when the Celtic reserves are measured against the internationally experienced FC Copenhagen side who will visit Tallaght tomorrow evening.

Certainly a positive result there, or for Sligo and St Pat's later in the week, will do far more for the league's standing than this exhibition.

Irish Independent

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