Thursday 22 February 2018

Shiels puts his faith in Derry way

Derry City manager Kenny Shiels. Photo: Sportsfile
Derry City manager Kenny Shiels. Photo: Sportsfile

Sean Ryan

Dundalk v Derry City: it's the tie of the first round of the FAI Cup, second in the Premier League against third, but Derry boss Kenny Shiels has a further, interesting take on this Oriel Park clash. For him, it's a clash between the Derry way of growing their own and Dundalk's penchant for cherry-picking talented from other clubs.

"I make sure that we manage from the bottom up," he explained. "From schoolboy up, that's how you manage properly. My job is about teaching good values. My professional satisfaction is not to manage Manchester United, it is to grow my club and bring them to the next level, and bring the players to the next level. I have done it throughout my career. Most of the present Northern Ireland players are my players - they came through when I was in charge of the under 17s. I know I'm decent at that.

"We will want to be at our best against Dundalk. They brought in Connolly from Bray and Vemmelund from Derry, and it's made them stronger again. It's a continuity of what they do. To me that's easier management, building a team from other clubs, and none that's been grown."

It's debatable which is the better option, as both clubs have suffered as a result of the 'cherry-picking' of their players by other, more affluent outfits. In the past week, Dundalk lost striker Ciaran Kilduff to MLS club Jacksonville Armada, while Derry striker Ronan Curtis was transferred to Sweden's Ostersunds.

"Ronan goes with my blessing," said Shiels. "I put the idea of players improving their status as a priority, I speak all the time of getting them to where they can fulfil their maximum potential. We're going to miss Ronan and Conor McDermott (suspended) but because we are doing it the right way, people in the city acknowledge that, and are proud of what we do."

Shiels is confident their replacements will be up to the task, as he has already blooded them in the Europa League games against Danish hot-shots Midtjylland.

"We were never going to advance because we were playing one of the best teams, so I looked at ways we could benefit and played seven teenagers over the two legs, and that was a massive learning curve, and results since have improved. We learned more from that than other clubs learned from playing lesser opponents.

"I'm all the time thinking about getting better because I know that I'm about improving players and selling them. Not having a population that sees full-time football as financially rewarding, we are restricted in where we can pick players from. We are playing against two from Derry on Sunday, who are getting good wages, and it's impossible for us to compete with clubs like Dundalk financially."

Shiels has strong views on the future of football on this island too. "The only solution is an All-Ireland League - 16 teams in the Premier and two regional leagues of 12, with the 16 teams in the Premier full-time and optional in the regionals. I think Linfield and Crusaders, Ballymena and Coleraine need to go full-time to improve the game in the North the way it is going forward in the South."

Derry, who were relegation candidates when Shiels took over, have beaten Dundalk already this season, and drawn at Oriel Park, they won't lack confidence today in a tie which will be as tough a test of the Derry way as they are likely to get.

Sunday Indo Sport

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