Damien Duff pictured during the game on Friday night. Ciaran Culligan/INPHO

'Going forward, I probably need to change' - Duff

The Shelbourne boss’ emotional response to a penalty incident led to a booking on Friday night.

THERE WAS NO shortage of emotion as Shelbourne hosted Dundalk on Friday night.

Cheered on by a packed home crowd, the newly-promoted side battled to a point.

Dundalk looked like the superior team from a footballing point of view, but their well-organised opponents restricted them to only a few chances over the course of the 90 minutes.

Shels consequently will have felt hard done by, after having kept Dundalk’s threat to a minimum for most of the night, when they went behind in the 69th minute thanks to Pat Hoban’s header from a well-executed Keith Ward delivery.

Yet Duff’s men showed resilience, fighting their way back into the game and earning what they will feel was a deserved point after Sean Boyd converted a penalty late on.

The former Ireland international epitomised the passion throughout the ground. “Little old Shels get f**k all,” he could be heard complaining from the sideline at one point after a couple of decisions went against them.

And Duff was at his most animated during the penalty incident. Boyd was taken out by goalkeeper Nathan Shepperd as he sprinted through on goal.

There appeared to be initial confusion and uncertainty over what call had been made and whether a penalty had been awarded, as the referee consulted his assistant before pointing to the spot.

Amidst this chaos, Duff received a booking after frantically sprinting down the touchline to make his feelings known.

Asked about the incident afterwards, Duff said: “I think that’s more money for the FAI. Is that a fine, a yellow card? I don’t think we got a lot tonight, thankfully we did get the peno.

“I didn’t know what the confusion was over, that’s why I got emotional and animated. Going forward, I probably need to change, But listen, I’m emotional, it’s who I am. I don’t want to change, but I might have to look at it.”

And will he fine himself for this lack of discipline, given that players are often punished for similar indiscretions? 

“Will I fine myself? Absolutely not. Not when I’m doing the fine lists. You can see Joey [O'Brien] reining me back in, Joey’s probably the calm in my life and around the football club. He’s been brilliant along with many others… Ah listen, it’s probably me needing to calm down.”

Despite Duff’s frustration with some of the officials’ calls, he acknowledged that 1-1 was a fair result amid what was a tight, closely fought encounter.

“Similar again to last week [against Derry], we frustrated quality opposition. Last week, a draw would have been a fair result, we just gave away a poor goal. Still, the only disappointment is: ‘Can we keep the ball more? Can we show more belief and quality on the ball?’ Because I know that they have it. We’re still probably easing our way into the season, getting that belief, believing that they belong here because they absolutely do. Believe it and trust it. Outside of that, the character, as you’ve seen, [is exemplary].”

Shels struggled to create much going forward over the 90 minutes, and Duff emphasised that the whole team were responsible for this issue, rather than just the attacking players.

“I’m talking about the quality throughout the game just to build the game. You can’t just keep attacking in fits and spurts. It’d be nice to sustain attacks, I guess. I’ll never criticise anyone for missing a chance — I wasn’t a great goalscorer myself. Boyd, Dan Carr — Dan’s had a difficult time with injuries. Before he even came here from England, he wasn’t doing a lot, let’s say, so he’s still getting up to speed. When we get Dan Carr up to speed, he’ll be a real threat. Boydy, as you know, you saw him tonight, he’ll die on his sword.”

It was Boyd’s first goal for the club since joining in the off-season after a spell last year with Finn Harps and just Shels’ third in five games overall.

Duff praised the 23-year-old striker after his crucial contribution against the Lilywhites.

“First and foremost, before football players, I try to look at characters and build a proper dressing room because success is built on that. Boydy’s got character in abundance, so no problem tonight, wins the peno, steps up, scores it and he’s just going to get stronger and stronger. Sean has had issues over the years, knee problems et cetera. But he’s been absolutely goldust for me around the place, so fair play to him.”

This positivity extended to the whole team, as Duff has been encouraged by what he has seen after five Premier Division matches.

“Of course, I’m a dreamer. ‘We’ve got a chance of doing this and that.’ All I’ve said all along is: ‘We have to stay up.’ That’s the grand plan. Ideally, you do it in a nice, sophisticated way of playing football, but as you’ve seen from the goal tonight, it’s a bit more industrial. But I’m more than happy. I think the lads have been amazing. I just think they’re going to get stronger and stronger and feel their way into the league more.”

Originally published at 06.00

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