Derry share spoils with Rebel Army

Derry City's relationship with the highs and lows continued on Friday night against Cork City FORAS Co-op at the Brandywell.

On the upside, over 3,000 fans attended the game but they were to be disappointed as the season opener finished 1-1.

The clash between the two demoted teams was a bit a like the New York pension investment fund for the North of Ireland in that it promised a whole lot but, frustratingly, fell way short of the mark.

Cork took the lead through a stunning strike from Davin O'Neill in the second half but Derry debutant Emmett Friars equalised for his hometown club just after the hour mark.

For the first 20 minutes of the game it was like watching two ageing heavyweight boxers of yesteryear trade punch for punch and jab for jab. Sadly there was to be no knock out from Derry.

Speaking after the game City Chairman Philip O'Doherty said that he was delighted to see so many people at the game and added that the club are hoping for a similar attendance for Derry's next home game against Athlone Town on March 26.

"We are absolutely delighted with the turnout tonight," said Mr. O'Doherty. "We think over 3,000 fans came here tonight and I think that that is just brilliant - fair play to the fans. I have to say that we were hoping for such attendance but we didn't expect it. Even as the game was just about start there were fans queued up outside waiting to get in - I haven't seen anything like that at the Brandywell for quite some time."

When asked for his thoughts on how important it was for Derry not to lose their opening game of the season, Mr. O'Doherty said that he thought the team played brilliantly and suggested that they deserved to take all three points.

"I think that maybe the young players might have been a bit nervous in front of their hometown supporters and that's to be expected. A lot of these players have never played in the First Division before but I think that the way they reacted was admirable. They showed great character to come back into the game and perhaps they were unlucky not to win."

The first piece of action of worth occurred in the 29th minute when James McLean broke free of Ian Turner on the left to pass to the waiting Barry Molloy just outside the 18 yard box. Molloy's effort on goal lacked any real direction and went well wide of the Cork goal.

As the game progressed Derry winger James McLean started to impose his superior strength and pace on Cork full-back Ian Turner.

In the 32nd minute McLean left Turner in his wake but his cross was finger tipped away by Cork 'keeper Mark McNulty and the ball was eventually scooped away from danger by former Derry City defender Dave Rogers.

Derry forward Vinnie Sweeney was the first player to get a shot on target when his headed effort from inside the area was comfortably caught by McNulty in the 33rd minute.

The Rebel Men's first shot of the evening came courtesy of a Greg O'Halloran header in the 38th minute. As Eoin Forde took the corner on the right former Candy Stripe O'Halloran rose in front of the Derry defence only to see his effort easily gathered by Doherty.

Cork's style of play and choice of tactics was predictable. The Turner's Cross outfit played very cautiously throughout and it was understandable as manager Tommy Dunne was only able to name two substitutes. In recent days the Dubliner has signed several new players but because of registration problems they were not permitted to play.

Cork took the lead in the 49th minute by way of a majestic finish by former Cobh Ramblers midfielder Davin O'Neill. William Heffernan dropped the ball into the Derry area on the right and O'Neill's deft touch lifted the ball over the head of Doherty and it nestled in the far corner of the net.

Derry second half substitute Stephen Parkhouse attempted a cheeky lob from just outside the Cork area in the 58th minute. Sadly for the Derry debutant his effort travelled wide.

Derry responded with a goal of their own in the 63rd minute when full-back Emmett Friars headed past McNulty.

Cork gave away a needless a free kick on the left and Ruairi Harkin's delivery was exceptional. At the perfect height the ball whizzed in front of the Cork six yard box for Friars to head home the equaliser.

Referee Paul Tuite dismissed Derry's claims for a penalty in the 82nd minute. As Stephen Parkhouse appeared to fall foul of a Dave Rogers challenge Tuite signalled that the Liverpudlian defender had made contact with the ball and none with the player.

Parkhouse tested the reflexes of McNulty in injury time when he flicked on Mark Scoltock's deep pass with a delicate header. Despite the Derry man's best efforts McNulty caught the ball and soon after Paul Tuite blew the final whistle.

In essence, a draw was a fair result. Cork had clearly heeded the fact that Derry had a greater squad to call upon and with it being the opening game of the new season there was a sense of the indestructible.

Be that as it may, Cork defended tremendously. The former Derry City duo of Greg O'Halloran and Dave Rogers negated Derry's attacking prowess. Each cross and pass into the area was as quickly cleared as it was dispatched.

Derry's next game will take place next Friday when they will make the 450 mile round trip to take on Limerick FC at Jackman Park.

Cork City FORAS Co-op FC: (4-4-2) Mark McNulty; Ian Turner, Dave Rogers, Stephen Mulcahy, Greg O'Halloran; Davin O'Neill, Paul Deasy, Cillian Lordan, Graham Cummins; Eoin Forde, William Heffernan.

Subs not used: Wesley Tong, John Dineen.

REFEREE: Mr. Paul Tuite (Dublin).