Doc aiming to cure Reds
Stand-in boss Doherty says Shels can win at Rovers and pull clear from foot of table
AT JUST 33 years of age, Kevin Doherty's first experience of management has arrived earlier than planned in his career.
The former Liverpool defender is in temporary charge of Shelbourne and, barring a sudden appointment of a new man in the hours before tonight's Dublin derby away to Shamrock Rovers, he will be in the dugout for the second game in a row as Shels try to lift a dismal season and lift themselves off the bottom of the table.
The Shels board have narrowed down a shortlist of applicants to two contenders, ex-Shels captain Owen Heary and former Reds assistant manager John McDonnell.
A permanent appointment is expected once tonight's game is out of the way, to allow the new man time to prepare for a big date next month – Shels' FAI Cup clash with non-league Bandon.
Listed at 11/1 for a win in Tallaght tonight, Shels are seen as no-hopes for the game. But Doherty – who had been coach of the Shels Under-19 side, but took charge of first-team affairs after Alan Mathews resigned last week – believes there is hope in the long term and that his beloved Reds can move off the bottom and avoid relegation.
"The table looks bad at the moment, but I fully expect us to stay up," says Doherty, who made his managerial debut with a 3-0 defeat at home by St Patrick's Athletic last week.
"We are on a bad run at the moment, we have lost three in a row and there's no getting away from that, but I know the players we have here, I know we have the ability to get off the bottom, if we can stay clear of injuries and suspensions.
"Tonight's game is a very big test for us, but I think Rovers away is the ideal game for us, there's no pressure on us, so all the pressure will be on Rovers. There's no expectation on us from outside the camp, so this week I have been trying to instill a belief in the players, tell them that they can go to Tallaght and get a result."
Suspensions have been a massive issue for Shels this season with a very unwanted disciplinary record – a lot of red cards for the Reds.
The tone was set in pre-season when Shels had three red cards in friendly games (two for Pat Flynn, one for Robert Bayly).
That carried on into the league season, with a man sent off in each of the first two games of the league season (Paul Crowley and Graham Gartland).
And there's been no let-up in the flurry of reds with Shels finishing with 10 men in their last two league games, Brian Shortall sent off against Dundalk two weeks ago and Jack Memery dismissed last week at home to Pats.
The yellow cards are too numerous to keep track of and Doherty admits that the indiscipline has hurt the club.
"It has killed us at times," says Doherty, who had six seasons as a player with Shels before he was forced to retire due to injury in 2010.
"The suspensions have been very hard to deal with when you also have injuries. And a lot of that has been self-inflicted.
"Some of the reds we have been given this season I would argue with, but on the other hand, some of them have been deserved.
"Last week against Pats, we had Jack Memery, a young defender, sent off, but it wasn't malice or intent from Jack, he was just being naive in the incident and that comes with being a young player in a big league like this."
Having worked with the club's Under-19 side, Doherty was delighted to see youngsters like Memery, Craig Mooney, Stephen Sheerin and Alex Prizeman all get a run-out in the side.
Being pitched into management so early was not planned by Doherty, who had intended to take a back seat in the game when he retired three years ago, having had a successful LOI career with Shels (2001-04), Waterford United (2005), Longford Town (2006-07), Bray Wanderers (2008) and Shels again (2009-10).
"It happened by accident," says the former Liverpool trainee. "When I finished as a player with Shels, I went back to my old club, Home Farm, just to have a look around and maybe help out.
"But I got interested in coaching and Alan Mathews brought me to Shels to help with the Under-19s," adds Doherty, who admits that his long-term future at the club will depend on the new manager and his plans for the side.
Like Shels, Rovers – who have played out three draws in the last four games – need a win to kick-start their season, so boss Trevor Croly is looking for a bright start.
"We will be looking to get on top early in the game.
"It's a Dublin derby and there should be a good crowd and a good atmosphere on the night and we'll be looking to make the most of that," Croly said.
"Having played Shelbourne earlier in the season and watched them recently, we know what we have to do in this game.
"We will need to pass the ball well and move it quickly. If we don't do that, we will be left sniffing out chances and that's not what we want."