ST Patrick’s Athletic manager Johnny McDonnell has hit out at the abuse which goalkeeper Barry Ryan endured from a section of the crowd during Cork City’s 1-0 victory at Turner’s Cross on Thursday night.
In 2003, while playing for Shamrock Rovers, Ryan tested positive for cocaine and received a 15-month ban which was subsequently reduced to nine months.
He has since rebuilt his career to become one of the most highly-rated ‘keepers in the country.
But on Thursday night, he was the victim of sustained chants of “junkie” as he played the second half of the eircom League Premier Division game in front of the new Shed stand.
At the end of the match, McDonnell hurried to the goal area to escort Ryan off the pitch and, as he put it, to “show our respect for him and to show him that’s he not on his own and that we’re all behind him.”
Later, McDonnell expressed his dismay about the chants.
Said the Pats boss: “The fella made a mistake in his life a good few years back but he’s probably the best goalkeeper in the league at the moment and to be treated like that…
“This is a trend that is coming into the game now and it’s not nice. You don’t mind fellas having a bit of banter — but not thuggery, cowardice or whatever you want to call it. Usually, it’s very welcoming here (in Turner’s Cross) but (the chants of) ‘Barry Ryan is a junkie, Barry Ryan is a junkie’. ‘Junkie, junkie, junkie’ — you could hear nothing else in the second half. It’s not what you come to games for.”
Cork City Chairman Brian Lennox has said that the club will investigate the matter with a view to identifying and taking action against any supporters who were involved. And he was backed by manager Damien Richardson who added his voice to the criticism of those involved.
Said Richardson: “I have great respect for the Rebel Army, and Turner’s Cross is one of the best football venues in the country. And everyone is always impressed with the number of young boys and girls who come to support Cork City. So we expect the best behaviour from all our fans. But if you can identify people whose behaviour is unacceptable then you’ve got to stop them.
“We say to parents: bring your children to Turner’s Cross and you’ll go home thinking that you’ll want to come back. Fans are as important as players in their behaviour and in the standards they set. Here in Cork the fans and the players work very well together and I don’t want anybody interfering with that.
And I don’t want anybody giving abuse to a player — whether he’s one of ours or the opposition — in a personal way. That’s just not acceptable.”
The controversy was the only sour note on a night of quality football which, thanks to Roy O’ Donovan’s penalty, saw Cork inflict on leaders St Pats their first defeat of the League campaign.
Said Richardson: “It was important that we got the gap back to six points. And it was an important game from the League’s point of view. I think it emphasises that while Pats have had a great start, the tests are going to come for them now.”
Meanwhile, with England’s players’ union now throwing its weight and its money behind the latest appeal in the protracted case of Colin Healy and Gareth Farrelly, the Cork City boss is cautiously optimistic of a breakthrough which would finally see FIFA clear the two players to play for their club.
Said Richardson: “The PFA have asked for a quick decision, so I’m hoping that by the weekend after next we’ll have something definite. I’m anticipating that we would get a very good reaction this time around but I will not count any chickens. But I’m more confident now. Whilst maybe, to FIFA, we’re a small club on the outer edge of Europe, the PFA are not like that. The PFA are powerful people who have a huge influence, on European football in particular. With the support of Gordon Taylor, who is the main man in the PFA, this will have to have a serious impact.”
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