The last time Derry City brought cup football to Ferrycarrig they scored six goals. Last season, en route back to the Premier Division, they restricted themselves to five. Last week they hit the back of the Galway net six times with Eamon Zayed scoring four.
But Zayed is on the bench tonight, his participation reserved for emergencies. Some hopes. Youths haven’t won a game at home all season. Apart from the faithful, most of the locals think this evening’s game is a foregone conclusion and have departed for Waterford where they think Ross Celtic have more chance of causing an upset.
But City manager Stephen Kenny voices pre-match concern that he may have put in too many of his youngsters with neither of the McEleneys starting and Gareth McGlynn and Kevin Deery joining Zayed in the dugout. Mr Kenny’s problem is that he has seven games coming up within a three week period so he needs to give his fringe players a run before they are called to Premier action. I don’t think he should worry – I’ve seen Youths, joint bottom of the First Division, floundering in recent weeks.
But as soon as the half time whistle sounds, Zayed and McGlynn, with very determined expressions on their faces, are out warming up. The score at the interval is Wexford Youths 2 Derry City 0. Would you repeat that, says my phone contact. It doesn’t seem possible. City started well enough with a long range flighter from the right looping over Holden to strike the inside of his far post and somehow rebound across the face of the goal and behind. A goal that early would have surely taken its toll on a Wexford defence that has its hairy moments early on. But then the balance of power shifts. Walshe’s physical presence has started to unsettle Derry experienced central defender Stewart Greacen and Danny Furlong, playing off his strike partner with considerable intelligence has exposed the frailty of McCallion on the right and revealed that Barry Molloy is not really a central defender.
On the half hour Craig Wall initiates a sweet move on the Wexford right, Ryan slides an inch perfect pass and Furlong runs in to slot it past Doherty. A fine goal and there’s more to come. When Dean Broaders is brought down as he goes on a mazy run across the Derry penalty area Furlong coolly slots the penalty home. “We’re going to win the cup” sing the Youths glee club. The faithful exchange smiles and shrugs of disbelief as they go in search of a cuppa. Surely not? If they weren’t up for it before, the visitors are certainly left in no doubt as to what is required of them now and with Zayed and McGlynn joining the fray the tide must turn.
But it doesn’t. The newcomers disappear without trace as Youths prove even more resourceful. Malone puts through Ryan who shoots over, Rowe fluffs a close range header and Doherty does well to tip a rasping drive from Ryan over before blocking his close range effort. When McClean does manage to slip the ball past Holden, Shane Nolan is on hand to clear and crunching tackles from Broaders and Malone keep Wexford at the helm.
After some nearly moments Ben Ryan finally gets the goal he so richly deserves firing past Doherty into the top corner from the edge of the box. Three-nil and seventy minutes on the clock. Although they’ve been assuring you it’s going to happen you finally believe Wexford Youths are en route for a famous victory. And when the hapless Molloy gifts the ball out of defence Walshe gets in on the right and Furlong scrambles his hat-trick from close range before the desperate Molloy can make amends on the line. Zayed’s close range injury time goal is no consolation although it must annoy Packie Holden who looked to have preserved a clean sheet with a flying save to parry Dave McDaid stinging drive from a similar distance only moments before.
Furlong deservedly gets the match ball but Walshe has also played a significant part in this unexpected success whilst Ryan’s display has illuminated the evening. Malone and Broaders have performed heroically and indeed the whole side has given the fans reason to take voice. Even 4th official Dunphy gets a gold star for managing the dugouts with efficient good humour.
“Wallace for Taoiseach!” sing the glee club. There’s about as much chance of that as, well, Wexford Youths beating Derry City.
Wexford Youths: Packie Holden; Shane Nolan, Karl Keogh, Martin Kehoe, Dean Broaders; Kevin Rowe (Dave Grincell 57), Ben Ryan, Patsy Malone, Craig Wall, Danny Furlong (Eoin Kinsella 90+1); Darragh Walshe (Michael Mullen (90+1).
Subs not used: Greg Yelverton.
Bookings: Walshe (61).
Derry City: Ger Doherty; Eddie McCallion (Patrick McEleney 65), Barry Molloy, Stewart Greacen, Danny Lafferty; James McClean, Ruaidhri Higgins, Ruari Harkin, Stephen McLaughlin (Gareth McGlynn 46); David McDaid, Michel McCrudden (Eamon Zayed 46).
Subs not used: Rory Kelly, Kevin Deery, Ryan McBride.
Bookings: Harkin (35).
Referee: James McKell.
Attendance: 200 (estimated).