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DERRY CITY are still the kings of the EA Sports Cup as they won their 10th title thanks to a narrow win over Cork City in a cracking contest in front of 4164 at Turner’s Cross on Saturday evening.
In a game where there was very little to choose between the sides, Eamon Zayed scored the decisive goal midway through the second period from the penalty spot as the Candystripes completed part one of what they hope is an historic double.
There’s still a long way to go in the league of course, but getting their hands on the league cup will be a major boost for them, though it was unfortunate that one side had to lose in a game that represented all that is good about domestic football.
If anything, this proved that Cork City are more than capable of plying their trade in the top tier once again. They have five games remaining in the first division and the promotion race remains very tight, but it would be a pity for the rest of the league if they weren’t involved in the new 12 team top tier in 2012.
From the impressive, youthful central defensive partnership of Kalen Spillane and Gavin Kavanagh through to the heart of midfield, where Gearóid Morrissey was given a bigger platform than first division football to show that he is one of the best young players in the country, Cork took the game to a Candystripes outfit that were big favourites prior to kick-off.
The fact that both sides were intent on attacking from the first whistle made this a delightful encounter to watch from the opening seconds.
Lining up in 442 formations, with both sets of wing-backs willing to get forward, there was no such thing as caginess from either team as the first attempt arrived just two minutes in when Derry skipper Kevin Deery flung in a free-kick which was headed wide by Stewart Greacen, as seconds later at the other end Graham Cummins volleyed wide after good work from Davin O’Neill.
It was Cork that enjoyed the better chances in the opening half hour, Shane Duggan shooting wide after Derry failed to clear a corner properly on 10 minutes, while Morrissey’s free-kick was spilled by Gerard Doherty on 17 minutes only for the Derry keeper to claim the ball the second time.
Derry looked as threatening when they went forward too, Gareth McGlynn striking the post with a cross-cum-shot though Mark McNulty looked to have the angle just about covered on 22 minutes.
Ian Turner, who usually plays at right-back, put in a very good shift on the wing and with the vociferous ‘home’ support behind them, Cork were unlucky not to be ahead in the 26th minute as Danny Murphy played to Graham Cummins, who turned before drilling a thunderous effort past Gerard Doherty only to watch the ball come back off the upright.
Nonetheless, the woodwork came to the Leesiders’ rescue ten minutes before the break as Ruaidhri Higgins’ strike cannoned off the crossbar after Danny Murphy’s face got in the way of Gareth McGlynn’s original effort.
Zayed though the hero in the end, somehow squandered a brilliant opportunity two minutes prior to Higgins’ attempt, his free header from six yards, after McLaughlin put it on a platter for him, drifted wide to the shock of the Candystripes band of fans behind the opposite goal.
It was incredible that the tie was still scoreless at the break but both teams emerged for the second half with the same attacking desire and Morrissey watched his attempt fly wide after 47.
McLaughlin was flying on the wing for Derry and he was unlucky to scuff his attempt wide nearing the hour mark, but the deadlock was finally broken on 65 minutes in controversial fashion.
Zayed’s shot was blocked by Gavin Kavanagh’s hand but it looked more like ball to hand than a deliberate attempt to block the shot, yet Paul Tuite had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, with Zayed stepping up to dispatch the penalty into the bottom left corner of the net. It was very harsh on Cork but there was little doubt that it struck the defender’s hand, just a pity for him that he could do little to get his hand out of the way.
Stephen Kenny’s men continued to pile forward with the lead, and Patrick McEleney, who shone once introduced in the 54th minute, forced McNulty into a good save after he was played in by Zayed.
Cork made a double substitution with 15 left to play, the two Vincent’s – Sullivan and Escudé-Candau – entering the fray and the latter watched his shot from 20 yards blocked by Ryan McBride.
The game petered out with little opportunities in front of goal but there was late drama in injury time as Shane McEleney was sent off – despite being an unused substitute - after fourth official Anthony Buttimer brought comments made by the Derry player to the attention of Tuite, who brandished the red card.
Cork City: Mark McNulty; Neal Horgan (Danny Morrissey, 84), Gavin Kavanagh, Kalen Spillane, DannyMurphy; Ian Turner (Vinny Sulivan, 77), Shane Duggan, Gearóid Morrissey, Derek O’Brien (Vincent Escudé-Candau, 77); Graham Cummins, Davin O’Neill.
Subs not used: James McCarthy, Craig Burns, Cathal Lordan, Jamie Murphy.
Derry City: Gerard Doherty; Barry Molloy, Ryan McBride, Stewart Greacen, Emmet Friars; Gareth McGlynn, Ruaidhri Higgins, Kevin Deery, Stephen McLaughlin; Eamon Zayed, David McDaid (Patrick McEleney, 54).
Subs not used: Eugene Ferry, Shane McEleney, Ruairi Harkin, Mark Farren, Thomas McMonagle, James Henry.
Bookings: Molloy (23), Higgins (45), R McBride (69).
Sent Off: S McEleney (92).
Referee: Paul Tuite (Dublin).
Official attendance: 4,164.
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Davin O’Neill – brilliant up front for Cork and unlucky to be on the losing side.