Three second half goals sent Derry City into the semi-finals of the EA Sports Cup as they defeated UCD at Belfield on Monday night.
To say that the first forty five minutes were uneventful would be to dramatically understate a situation in which UCD managed just two half chances and Derry failed to worry Ger Barron in the UCD goal at all.
Derry started this game with just two of last Friday’s starting eleven, against the same opposition at the same venue, on the pitch. Manager Stephen Kenny took the opportunity of an EA Cup game to give some game time to the wider reaches of his squad.
Martin Russell, on the other hand, obviously sees this competition as an opportunity for his side to win some rare silverware and he put out a full strength UCD side. That diligence paid off with his charges creating the only chances of note in a half that took place predominantly in the centre of the park.
Robbie Benson blazed over the Derry bar from 15 yards on 14 minutes when he picked up a ball from striker Graham Rusk. Nothing more of significance occurred until the 35th minute when Paul O’Conor pulled a ball across to the back post where it was met by Sean Russell. His volley was hard and accurate but Eugene Ferry held it at the second attempt.
But just three minutes into the second half something happened. Pat McEleney slipped a through ball to Stephen McLaughlin and the winger stepped on before finishing coolly past Ger Barron.
McEleney almost added a second on 56 minutes when he twisted and turned on the edge of the UCD box, Ger Barron acrobatically turning his curling effort over the crossbar. Two minutes later he was denied again when he shot past Barron only for Paul O’Conor to block his effort on the line. But the rebound found its way to Ruairi Harkin and he finished to the top corner.
On 62 minutes the Candystripes added a third when Michael McCrudden was played through down the left and he advanced on goal before clipped a well placed shot past Barron and into the far corner.
UCD then almost pulled one back when Paul O’Conor was unlucky to see his sliding effort narrowly clear the Derry bar after he got on the end of a cracking low ball from Daniel Ledwith. But on 74 minutes any hope of a UCD comeback disappeared when Sean Harding conceded a penalty for a foul on McLaughlin. Davy McDaid missed the spot kick, rolling it off the left hand post and away, but Harding was shown a straight red.
From that point on Derry provided all the pressure as the ten men of UCD battled to retain their dignity. Barron made a series of timely saves including one from McLaughlin on 88 minutes that looked destined for the net. But despite their best efforts Derry had to be content with three goals and a place in the semi-finals of the EA Sports Cup.
UCD: Ger Barron; Sean Harding, David O’Connor, Mick Leahy, Ciaran Nangle; Paul O’Conor, Robbie Benson (Stephen Doyle, 59), Paul Corry (Sean Russell, 21), Daniel Ledwith (James Kavanagh, 82), Darren Meenan; Graham Rusk.
Subs not used: Mark McGinley, Tomas Boyle, Eoin Roche, Ciaran Morrison.
Sendings Off: Harding (74).
Derry City: Eugene Ferry; Eddie McCallion, Ryan McBride, Emmet Friars, Thomas McGonagle; James Henry (Jack Heaney, 90), Pat McEleney, Ruairi Harkin, Stephen McLaughlin; David McDaid (Ryan Curran, 88), Michael McCrudden (Shane McEleney, 72).
Subs not used: Rory Kelly, Barry McNamee, Matt Harkin, Eamon Zayed.
Bookings: McMonigle (68).
Referee: Rob Rogers.
Attendance: 200 (estimate).
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Ruairi Harkin (Derry City).