The controversy over Sheriff v ShelsPosted: September 1, 2011
The weekend just passed saw the 4th round of the FAI Cup played. There were some tasty ties to be played including a Louth derby which went to a replay, first division Limerick giving Premier Division Bray a roasting in Wicklow, and non league side Sheriff YC managing a mesmeric comeback to beat seven times winners Shelbourne.
It is that last game I mentioned that has become a subject of utmost intrigue in League of Ireland circles in the past few days.
First Division leaders and huge favourites for promotion Shelbourne were leading the game in Tolka Park (although Shels were technically the away team) 2-0 at half time with goals from Fitzgerald and Bryne. The gulf between the two teams was huge, Shels were cruising, and it would have taken one of the biggest upsets in Cup history for this tie to be turned around…
…Or a match fix.
The match is currently under investigation for match fixing, with very strange betting patterns on the day of the game suggesting that Shels threw the game. At the start of the day, Sheriff were as high as 20/1 to come out of the tie victorious. But in the hours and minutes leading up to kick off, the amateur team were priced as low as 13/2 – a massive drop.
The Reds scored the first two goals of the game, and went into the half time break 2-0 to the good. During this pause, prices still remained quite low on Sheriff. In fact – it was at half time that a huge proportion of the bets were made, eventually arousing a lot of suspicion from the bookies.
Since the day of the match, I myself have heard a few different second hand stories of things that happened. At one point before the game I was told that a bookie at Paddy Power told a friend of his to go down the road to a Ladbrokes and bet on a 3-2 win for Sheriff. He obviously wanted his friend to do the bet in the other place so as his betting shop wouldn’t lose the money, suggesting he had known about the match fixing. I’ve also been told that most of the bets were done on the 3-2 scoreline and for Shels to miss a penalty – which the did. But allow me to emphasise that these are second hand stories that I’ve heard, and I’m not reporting them as fact.
Days after the game, the whole story took another twist. Sheriff YC could actually be thrown out of the FAI Cup, but not because of any dodgy betting. As it transpires, a player named John Lester played for the inner city club – but supposedly he had already played for another team in a previous round of the competition.
There is an investigation under way into the situation. Lester may have had played for Mount Merrion in one of the early rounds of the competition, and that’s the origin of this part of the controversy involved in the Sheriff vs Shelbourne FAI Cup tie.
If Sheriff do get disqualified from the competition, it will be interesting to see who replaces them. Could Shelbourne be the ones to gain from this and be reinstated into the quarter finals, despite the controversy surrounding them? The match fixing is something very difficult to prove; almost impossible without an admission. But if Shelbourne aren’t allowed back into the competition then it’ll be a very tough call on who to allow back in. A 4th round loser? But if so – which one? What is there to say that one of the teams deserves it more than the other?
It may be easiest for the FAI to just grant Shels their quarter-final place, with no proof of any match-fixing. And without proof – they’re innocent. The Sheriff Shelbourne tie was always going to be an interesting one, but who’d have thought it would have provided this many talking points?