Ruaidhrí Higgins has defended his decision to adopt a hardline approach in keeping Derry City’s fixture against Shamrock Rovers on Friday intact despite the Hoops’ ongoing European exploits.
Pleas by Rovers to postpone the game at the Ryan McBride Brandywell till Saturday or Sunday were rejected, with Candystripes boss Higgins preaching the importance of consistency for all the league’s European entrants.
Rovers returned from North Macedonia early on Wednesday morning, fresh from completing a 5-2 two-leg victory over FC Shkupi to guarantee participation in the group stages of European competition.
How they fare in a play-off against Ferencvaros over the next fortnight, starting next Thursday in Hungary, will determine whether that six-match pool phase from September to November entails the Europa or Conference League.
Hoops boss Stephen Bradley is juggling with the European commitments with defending their title. While Derry’s expected charge to dethrone them, based on a boosted budget, has yet to materialise, Rovers lost 2-1 on their last visit. Another victory on their home patch would cut Derry’s gap on the leaders to five points with 11 games remaining.
"We asked last week to move the game to Saturday or Sunday, we didn't want the game off," said Bradley.
"The league came back and said no, which I find really strange. We are not asking for the game off, but the league has said it's not possible. Which is really poor from them."
Higgins had been contacted by the FAI about a compromise but was unapologetic about standing firm, deviating from the collegiate approach league among clubs legend Brian Kerr which has been espousing for the common good this week.
"We travelled back from Riga on a Friday and played Finn Harps on a Sunday evening in a north-west derby," Higgins told the Derry Journal about their own, albeit brief, experience in this season’s Conference League.
"We were stuck in the airport for a couple of hours waiting for our bags. We then had to drive from Dublin to Derry and play Finn Harps two days later. There are similarities and no one moved the game for us. It's nothing against Shamrock Rovers; we have to do what's best for Derry City.
"Friday nights at the Brandywell are important to us and special. Without a doubt, it's different to a Saturday or a Sunday so if it could be helped, we weren't moving. I would take the position they're in."