Dundalk and Derry will have to reconvene at the Brandywell on Tuesday evening following their 2-2 draw in Sunday’s FAI Cup semi-final at Oriel Park.
Goals from Dean Shiels and Ciaran Kilduff gave the holders what seemed like an unassailable two-goal cushion at the interval, only for Rory Patterson and substitute Ronan Curtis to deservedly earn Derry a replay in the second-half.
Shiels gave the Lilywhites the lead after 21 minutes. Battling play by John Mountney saw the winger set Alan Keane away down the right. The three-time FAI Cup winner waltzed past the challenge of Ryan McBride before setting up the inrushing Northern-Irishman to give Dundalk the lead.
The prolific Kilduff made it 2-0 on the stroke of half-time. The Lilywhites’ European hero beat a static Derry defence to latch onto Patrick McEleney’s expertly lofted ball before slotting home.
Derry hit back in the second-half though and Patterson got the goal that he was threatening in the 65th minute, tapping home after Sava had spilled Aaron McEneff’s deflected effort.
The Candystripes drew level with four minutes remaining. A defensive mix-up by Alan Keane and Paddy Barrett was compounded by Ronan Curtis’ vicious strike which sailed past Sava to send the large Foyleside contingent into raptures.
Chances past in the closing minutes for both sides, however, the referee called-a-halt to proceedings four minutes into stoppage time, giving the 3,283 present an opportunity to draw their breath.
Stephen Kenny opted to make drastic changes to his side in a bid to keep his preferred starting XI fresh, with eight alterations having been made to the side that began Thursday night’s Europa League win.
Andy Boyle, Chris Shields and Daryl Horgan were the only players to remain in the team, while captain Stephen O’Donnell returned following his European suspension.
As for the Candystripes, Kenny Shiels welcomed back his own ‘skipper Ryan McBride to the heart of his five-man defence. The 26-year-old replaced the injured Max Karner, while Derry also dropped Ronan Curtis to the bench despite the frontman scoring twice against Shamrock Rovers five-days earlier.
There is something about Derry City and the FAI Cup, whereby they always seem to produce their best. Early on at Oriel Park, it seemed as if that narrative was going to continue with the Candystripes completely on top during the early exchanges.
Midfielder Barry McNamee was proving to be very elusive for a dormant Dundalk defence. The little linkman was centrally involved as Derry almost took a fifth minute lead. It was his ingenuity that fed Dean Jarvis who in-turn put the ball onto the head of Rory Patterson. The striker’s glancing header was brilliantly saved by Gabriel Sava though as the Italian got sharply down to his left.
The Candystripes pressed endlessly during a tight opening 45 minutes which also saw the two Kennys, Stephen and Shiels, become very animated with some of the official’s decision-making.
The Derry manager will have felt even more aggrieved at the interval having watched his side concede two very avoidable goals. The Lilywhites first notch came completely against the run-of-play, while the second was defensively naïve on the Candystripes part.
They were left with it all to do in the second-half but they started positively with Nathan Boyle almost getting onto a lazy Andy Boyle back-pass immediately after the break.
Dundalk settled into their groove thereafter with the O’Donnell, McEleney and Horgan trio dictating. Kilduff struck the post having pulled to the back post to meet a scrumptious McEleney cross within five minutes of the re-start.
The striker looks on fire at the moment and he revelled in his first start since the last round of the cup away to UCD. Derry were never completely out of it though and it took last ditch defending from Alan Keane to keep Patterson off the score sheet in the aftermath of some good play by the Foylesiders.
Derry did get find the net soon after though. The course of Aaron McEneff’s shot was altered significantly by Shane Grimes’ deflection, and with Sava unable to claim, Patterson nipped in to score.
It was end-to-end stuff, Conor McDermott preserved Derry’s hopes with excellent defending to snuff out Kilduff, before the visitors set-off on several attacks which almost yielded them scoreboard parity. McNamee was repeatedly involved as Sava was called into action by Conor McCormack.
They did draw level soon after as Ronan Curtis found the net to the delight of all associated with the Candystripes. It was merited having given Dundalk as good as they had gotten, their performance after the break alone deserved a cup-final place.
Both sides continued to pour numbers forward to attack as the Carrick Road venue became increasingly nervy. Robbie Benson and David McMillan spurned great openings late-on for Dundalk, however, it would have been hard on the Candystripes if they had sent the Lilywhites to a second consecutive cup-final appearance.
Dundalk FC: Gabriel Sava; Alan Keane, Paddy Barrett, Andy Boyle, Shane Grimes; Chris Shields, Stephen O’Donnell; John Mountney, Dean Shiels (Patrick McEleney 23), Daryl Horgan (Robbie Benson 72); Ciaran Kilduff (David McMillan 82).
Subs not used: Gary Rogers (gk), Darren Meenan, Brian Gartland, Sean Gannon.
Booked: Daryl Horgan (36)
Derry City: Ger Doherty; Conor McDermott, Niclas Vemmelund, Ryan McBride (Ben Doherty 59), Lukas Schubert (Josh Daniels 81), Dean Jarvis; Aaron McEneff, Conor McCormack, Barry McNamee; Nathan Boyle (Ronan Curtis 52), Rory Patterson.
Subs not used: Shaun Patton (gk), Cristian Castlees, Harry Monaghan, Keith Ward.
Referee: Graham Kelly
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Barry McNamee (Derry City)