Stephen Kenny baffled as BATE head-butter free to play

The Dundalk Democrat has a 12-page pull-out on the game which they’re calling the biggest at Oriel Park since the fabled European Cup tie with Celtic in 1979.

The buzzing faithful are planning a march from the centre of town to the ground before kick-off.

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill plans to attend and, although the ‘sold out’ signs are up, it’s expected the club will facilitate a late request from superstar Ed Sheeran for two tickets for the game — although officials have mischievously suggested that the singer-songwriter reciprocate by wearing a Lilywhites jersey when he performs in Dublin at the weekend.

Unfortunately, Uefa regulations mean that capacity at Oriel Park will be limited to 3,200 for tonight’s eagerly awaited Champions League second-leg game against BATE Borisov, in which a 1-0 win for the SSE Airtricity League champions would be enough to see them progress on the away goal rule after impressing hugely in a narrow 2-1 first-leg defeat in Belarus.

But, to the surprise of many, among those standing in the way of what would be a massive achievement for the home side, will be BATE’s international skipper Vitali Rodionov who has been cleared to play by Uefa despite admitting to a head-butt on Dundalk’s Dane Massey which was missed by the referee in the first leg.

The decision has left Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny perplexed.

“It sets a precedent,” he suggests . “Is it OK to headbutt someone in a game? Are there no sanctions for any club? Is everyone treated equally? Is there a level playing field between sizes of clubs or are there different rules?

“All these things have to be considered. Rodionov came clean which is unusual and was man enough to say what he did was completely wrong and was ready to take whatever sanction his club and Uefa give him and he apologised to Dane Massey.

“You can’t be any more clear-cut than that. I thought his suspension was an absolute formality.”

Full-back Massey, who says he’s glad he didn’t “do anything silly” in response to the provocation in Belarus, reckons the best retaliation tonight would simply be to knock BATE out of the Champions League.

“It would be that little bit sweeter now that they have their full squad to choose from and he isn’t banned,” he says. “There’d be no excuses there when we do beat them.”


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