Drogheda United needed a 94th minute winner to book their place in the Setanta Sports Cup semi-final as they overcame a dogged ten-man Derry City at Hunky Dorys Park.
An exciting finish to an incident packed match saw the Boynesiders book passage to the semi-final, where they will face Sligo Rovers, as they look to become the first team to win three Setanta Cup trophys.
Last year’s losing finalists were reduced to ten-men at the start of the second half as Ryan McBride saw a straight red for a leg breaking tackle on Drogheda’s Gary O’Neill. A rash challenge saw the striker left needing to be stretchered off as the rest of the players looked on with sickened expressions as they feared for the colleague.
It wasn’t the first bad tackle by McBride, just before the break he was put in a world of trouble by Barry Molloy who played a ball across the face of his own goal and allowed Gary O’Neill steal in and McBride had a lunge at the striker before he took both man and ball leaving Neil Doyle with no choice but to point to the spot. Gary O’Neill stepped up and failed to take advantage, his poor effort was easily saved by Ger Doherty.
However, the visitors, knowing they needed to score, took the lead on 64 minutes. A defensive lapse by Philip Hand saw him direct the ball to Michael Rafter who need only one touch to bury the ball past Sava.
Drogheda took only four minutes to respond. Philip Hand was called up from his left back position to the right wing just inside the Derry half to take a freekick and the fullback floated a ball into the Derry box where Gavin Brennan headed it back across goal and Derek Prendergast smashed it home.
With their backs to the wall Derry managed to hold out until the 94th minute when Ryan Brennan popped up at the back post to capitalise on a loose ball and he beat the flailing Ger Doherty to break the Candystripes hearts.
On what was a Baltic evening on the Boyne, Derry City looked a sight as their entire outfield contingent wore short sleeve jerseys and after a slow opening period they were almost behind on 15 minutes. Kevin Deery, who would prove to be a formidable force, managed to race back to hook a Gavin Brennan shot off the line as Ger Doherty was beaten.
This instigated an end-to-end period as Gabriel Sava was almost caught out by a long range screamer from Patrick McEleney. The midfielder made a yard of space for himself before letting fly from 30 yards out.
Deery was again required on 30 minutes as Gavin Brennan sent in a dangerous ball to the back post and with Brian Gannon lurking the defender made a vital interception to turn the ball behind.
Patrick McEleney was constantly hanging on the shoulder of Byrne and Prendergast looking to be released and Barry McNamee slipped through the perfect pass which forced McEleneny into a footrace with Sava and the Italian managed to clear the ball but in doing so momentum took him through the on-rushing Derry player. The heavy collision forced McEleney off.
Goalscorer Michael Rafter was forced off in the second half as the injury worries mount for Declan Devine. The Candystripes boss will need a serious think about his squad ahead of their next game as the casualty list increased.
Mick Cooke will be pleased that his side bounced back from their disappointing performance and result on the opening night of the League on Friday.
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Brian Gannon, Alan Byrne, Derek Prendergast, Philip Hand; David Cassidy, Michael Daly (Ryan Brennan 73), Graham Rusk (Peter Hynes 80), Paul O’Conor, Gavin Brennan; Gary O’Neill (Declan O’Brien 52).
Subs not used: Michael Schlingermann, Dean Gaynor, Jason Marks, Stephen Quigley.
Derry City: Ger Doherty; Shane McEleney, Ryan McBride, Simon Madden, Barry Molloy; Kevin Deery, Barry McNamee, Patrick McEleney (Mark Griffin 45), Ruaidhri Higgins; Michael Rafter (Ryan Curran 70), Rory Patterson.
Subs not used: Tony McNamee, Conal Kelly, James Gallagher, Michael Duffy, Thomas Crawley.
Bookings: Shane McEleney (37), Ryan McBride (44).
Sent Off: Ryan McBride (48).
Referee: Neil Doyle.
Extratime Man of the Match: Gavin Brennan (Drogheda United).