Traveling away to play a non-league side in the Cup is one of those traditional banana-skins that keep League of Ireland managers awake at night and this weekend the nightmare became reality for both Roddy Collins and Stephen Henderson. Both Waterford united and Cobh Ramblers went out of the FAI Cup at the the grounds of ‘lesser’ opposition while UCD’s Collie O’Neill suffered the humiliation of seeing his UCD team turned over by Junior side Sheriff YC on their own turf.
Peter Hutton, manager of Premier Division giants Derry City, was spared similar grief when he took his side to play Leinster Senior League side Edenderry Town at a pristine Paddy Maloney Park on Sunday afternoon. The Candystripes dominated the game but were made to work hard for their win and patience was the key in breaking down a determined home defence before running out 3-0 winners.
After the game Hutton was full of praise for the efforts of Pat McDonnell’s men as well as being satisfied with the professionalism of his own players.
“We’re delighted to just get the job done”, he said, having emerged from the Away dressingroom at County Offaly’s highest ranking football club. “Sometimes it’s a no win situation. If you win you’re expected to win anyway, and if you don’t perform then some people will be on your back”
Indeed, most neutral supporters love nothing more than to see one of the League’s Goliaths suffer the indignity of being downed by a plucky David and certain qualities are needed, even by the very best teams, to avoid such misfortune. “I thought we were very professional”, said Hutton, “and disciplined. And Gerard [Doherty] didn’t have a save to make in the whole game. It was important that we had good concentration levels at the back and I thought we were comfortable throughout.”
That is a fair assessment of a game in which the vast majority of Edenderry’s energy was put into keeping the Foylesiders out, rather than making hay themselves, but the Offaly side defended with considerable aplomb and showed qualities that Hutton was quick to appreciate.
“They had a game plan and they stuck to it”, was Hutton’s accurate assessment. “They did well. To a man they worked admirably for each other and I think most of them will sleep tonight. They worked their socks off and full credit to them.
“It was working for them and it took an exceptional strike by Mark Timlin [to force a breakthrough]. Unfortunately we missed a penalty prior to that and I think our heads went down a wee bit but it was a great strike by Mark Timlin just on the stroke of half time and I think it opened up a wee bit in the second half, particularly once we got a second.
Timlin put in a Man of the Match performance for Derry and it was his creative spark that always looked likely to mark the difference between the two teams on the day. He scored the crucial opener direct from a free kick on forty minutes and it was his cut back that provided substitute Sean Houston with a tap in for the third, six minutes from time, that sealed Derry’s progress to round three.
“He was very good on the day”, admitted Hutton. “He did exceptionally well and took his goal well. He was on the rough end of some challenges as well but he’s a game lad and he’s been a bright spark for us. Unfortunately we’re going to lose him now for two games with a suspension but I thought he was exceptional.”
Clearly, playing the wings where Timlin alternated with Josh Daniels between left and right, was a key part of Derry’s strategy. And while it took almost the entire first half before a breakthrough was found, Hutton was never tempted to abandon his five-man midfield for a more direct two-man attack.
“Playing the extra man up front probably would have just added to the bodies up there. particularly when you’re up against a blanket defence. We were trying to get into good wide areas and get runners from midfield, and when you have a blanket defence like that there’s no real space in behind. So you’re just adding to that lack of space by putting another body up there. They would probably have dragged someone else back to mark him too, so you just have to try and be more creative in terms of creating space. We didn’t do that enough but, as I say, we’re just glad to get the job done.”
So Premier Division guile overcame the effort and determination of their Intermediate level opponents but few of Edenderry’s 1,237 spectators will have gone home feeling too disappointed. One a day of mixed showers and sunshine the event itself was a consistently positive one. The ground looked great, the people of Edenderry came out in droves and the atmosphere was unrelentingly bright. It was an occasion that showcased all that is positive about domestic football and Hutton was not slow to congratulate the home club on putting on an excellent show.
“It was great, fantastic”, said Hutton. “The community really turned up in numbers and it’s great for Edenderry. The facilities here would put a lot of senior clubs to shame to be quite honest. And full credit to them, they’ve obviously worked their socks off in preparation for the game and their committee and directors, and board and fans, you can see they’ve all rallied round for the occasion. It’s great to see so many numbers here supporting them and I’m sure they’re hoping that one or two of them come back to their league games then”.