Derry boss Shiels fumes as damaged Turner's Cross gets go-ahead
Cork City are set to be given a chance to win the Premier Division title against Derry City tonight but, if the game goes ahead as planned, it will do so in strange circumstances.
A sold-out crowd was expected at Turner's Cross as Cork go in search of the point that would make them champions but the damage to the stadium caused by Storm Ophelia will mean that a large number of supporters will be denied the chance to see their side win their first league title in 12 years.
A section of the roof on the Derrynane Stand at the St Anne's end of the ground was destroyed by the violent weather and, consequently, the entire stand will be closed.
Derry made the long journey south last Sunday. The game had initially been scheduled to take place yesterday but was moved to tonight, with a 7.20 kick-off, to allow the storm to pass.
Safety inspections were carried out by officials yesterday and the decision was taken to go ahead with the game "once the necessary works are completed in clearing debris and the Derrynane Stand remaining closed," a statement from the FAI read.
However, Derry manager Kenny Shiels has threatened to pull his side out of the clash, citing the health risks that his players would face by playing.
"There is a distinct possibility and the way I'm thinking about it at the moment is I can't say it for definite," Shiels told BBC Radio Foyle when asked if the club was considering not playing the game.
"I have to put my players' safety and health before everything. I don't think it's fair to be stuck down here for two and a half days preparing for a game when we can't go out the hotel door.
"I don't think it's fair on Dundalk FC for example. From that perspective, I have to make a decision. We can't really travel either. That's the problem. We're stuck in the middle of this.
It's been very demanding on everybody. We're sitting looking at each other not knowing what to do and psychologically the players are a little bit shocked at having to be here. It's about looking after the welfare of the players and staff.
"We feel a little bit hard done by and, while it's a little bit paranoid, I couldn't see Cork City sitting in Derry for two and a half days unable to prepare for a fixture of such importance. We're being deprived of the proper preparation required."
Trees also fell outside Turner's Cross which blocked the stadium's main turnstiles, but the club have been working to clear the wreckage and fully expect to get the final all-clear this morning.
Given their struggles on the pitch in recent weeks, Cork are understandably eager to get the point that will finally see them crowned champions, but the decision to go ahead with the game has raised eyebrows up and down the country - not least from Shiels.
"We have a duty of care to the families," re re-iterated. "I have taken young players out of school to come down and play for Derry City in a very important game.
"But the importance of the game is superseded with the safety of these young people. It's important we look after them and put our duty of care towards them before everything.
"We're disappointed we have to play. But if it's not safe and it's jeopardising the welfare and safety of the players and staff, we will be going home."
Cork City v Derry City
Live RTE2, 7.20