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O'Neill stands by man in Zayed racism row

MICHAEL O'Neill has backed the Shamrock Rovers player at the centre of the League of Ireland racism row and criticised Derry City's handling of the controversy.

Candystripes striker Eamon Zayed accused one of his Shamrock Rovers opponents of racially abusing him last Monday and the FAI are investigating the matter.

The Rovers player in question is denying any racist remarks were made and his manager is sticking by him.

"I spoke to him shortly after I was made aware of it. He told me exactly what he said. It wasn't particularly nice, what he said, but there was no racial slur," said manager O'Neill.

"There's a difference in terms of the two supposed contrasting views of the incident but at the end of the day the two players involved were the only ones really party to that.

"We made a statement, we spoke to the player and he gave us his version of events and we obviously have to believe him. Derry have given their version of events, they obviously have to believe their player.

"The media attention has been driven by Derry, by people in Derry who have been talking about it repeatedly. That has disappointed me somewhat.

"We're not sitting here burning crosses or anything in our spare time. The reality is that we don't have that issue. We have multi-racial players in our squad."

The Hoops beat bottom side Galway United 4-0 on Friday night, and Tribesmen boss Sean Connor revealed the extent of the difficulties he has faced this season.

On a run of 13 defeats, the players and staff have not been paid for three weeks as the club continues to try and repay the debt racked up over the last number of years. Now run by a supporters' trust, the Westerners are continuing to fundraise to try and meet their deficit and Connor has been asked to reduce his already tiny budget.

"We've got huge problems, structure-wise, finance-wise, support-wise but I've got a group of young players working very hard, training their socks off, trying to learn in a very unforgiving league," he said.

"The management committee have asked me to cut the budget. Ultimately, we have got to make sure the club survives, and get through the season."

Irish Independent