Derry City head into their ninth FAI Senior Cup final on a winning note after a tense win over their Cup final opponents, St Patrick’s Athletic, at the Brandywell on Friday night.
Simon Madden and David McDaid struck in the first-half for the Candystripes, who held on after Chris Forrester made a game of it with a goal early in the second-half.
City had their chances to put the tie to bed in the first-half, but couldn’t manage to find the path in for the killer third. And when Forrester netted just shy of the hour mark, it made for a nervous conclusion for the home fans, with Pat’s skipper Conor Kenna’s flicked header in the fifth minute of stoppage time clipping the woodwork in what was the game’s final act.
During the week, Derry manager Declan Devine swatted aside suggestions that this game was a ‘dress rehearsal’ of sorts for the final.
“It will have no bearing whatsoever on cup final day…it will be a totally different game, on a totally different day in a totally different competition,” insisted Devine.
And his prophecy will come to pass as tonight’s, sometimes dour, affair – lit up by its goals – will be nothing compared to the glitz and glamour of FAI Cup final day at the Aviva Stadium.
A cracker looked on the cards when the home side got off to a dream start as full-back Madden stole between two Pat’s players on the edge of the box to latch onto Stewart Greacen’s pass and deftly slip the ball beyond Barry Murphy to the far corner.
It was the full-back’s first League goal of the season – and his first in all competitions since he netted in the 3-1 Setanta Cup win over Linfield in March. More noteworthy, perhaps, was that it was City’s first goal of the season against Pats, having been comprehensively beaten, 2-0 and 3-0, in the two previous meetings.
Without Rory Patterson, Derry were forced into making one change to their line-up, with David McDaid brought in from the off in place of the suspended Strabane man.
And livewire McDaid, who netted in the recent 3-0 FAI Cup semi-final replay win over Shelbourne, got a sight of goal in the 34th minute, but the striker’s low shot lacked conviction and Murphy was able to smother. McDaid wouldn’t be denied on his next visit, however.
Barry McNamee did well to latch onto the ball in the D and the impressive Donegal lad slipped right to McDaid, who finished from close range.
City might well have had the game copper-fastened by the break and, but for some poor finishing on their part, they would have had. McDaid shot at Murphy when a one-one-one opportunity presented itself to the surprised City frontman, while Stephen McLaughlin’s flicked header from a McNamee corner was deflected out.
Pats, for their part, entered the game on the back of the epic finale at the Showgrounds six days ago – which saw Sligo Rovers capture the League title – and Liam Buckley’s team showed four alterations. Sean O’Connor’s red card late in the day last weekend meant he was unavailable, but Pat’s began with Ian Bermingham, Ger O’Brien and Greg Bolger making way, also, as Pat Flynn, John Russell, Jake Kelly and Vinny Faherty were included, with a chance to stake a claim for a final spot.
The Pat’s knife seemed considerably blunt in the first-half, with the Dubliners’ first real chance not coming until the final minute of the half – when Christy Fagan somehow managed to fail to hit the target having rounded Doherty.
McDaid was inches away from a third when he pounced quicker than Kenna and Murphy, only to see his delicate effort roll just the wrong side of its intended target.
Twelve minutes into the second-half Forrester made the most of Greacen’s hesitancy as he dispossessed the Derry centre-back before drilling hard beyond Doherty from the edge of the ’18.
But for a brilliant save by Doherty, Pats would have been level on 64 minutes as James Chambers saw a blistering effort from 12 yards superbly pushed past the post by the Derry ‘keeper.
‘Saints’ captain Kenna connected with Meenan’s corner, but headed over and City survived. The visitors continued to probe in search of a leveller and, after Derry’s Murphy was denied a penalty when he went down in the area, Faherty nodded narrowly wide before Russell was denied by a full-stretch save from Doherty.
Derry clung to the points, but not before having the nerves put through the blender as Kenna struck the post in the dying seconds.
Derry City (4-4-1-1): Gerard Doherty; Simon Maden, Stewart Greacen, Shane McEleney, Dermot McCaffrey; Patrick McEleney (Marc Brolly 85), Ruaidhri Higgins, Barry Molloy (Kevin Deery 46), Stephen McLaughlin; Barry McNamee; David McDaid (Conor Murphy 70).
Subs not used: Eugene Ferry, Ryan McBride, Ryan Curran, Caoimhin Bonner.
Bookings: Molloy (27), Murphy (74).
St Patrick’s Athletic (4-4-2): Barry Murphy; Pat Flynn, Conor Kenna, Kenny Browne, Jake Carroll; Jake Kelly (Darren Meenan 56 (Greg Bolger 81)), Chris Forrester, James Chambers, Vinny Faherty; Christy Fagan (Anthony Flood 58), John Russell.
Subs not used: Brendan Clarke, Kevin Farragher, Aiden Price, Ryan Coombes.
Bookings: Flynn (27).
Referee: Dave McKeon (Dublin).
Attendance: 1,800 (estimate)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Simon Madden (Derry City).