GERARD Doherty will never forget the 2012 FAI Cup Final.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
Derry City’s star goalkeeper, Gerard Doherty kept a private promise he made after having carried the remains of his late grandfather into St. Mary’s Church in Creggan on Sunday morning last before making a hectic dash to Dublin for that afternoon’s FAI Cup final.
Devastated at the death of the 86-years-old Jim McDaid, from Beechwood Avenue, who Gerard described as a “father figure” in his family, the keeper had then to step into a car after 10.30 a.m. arriving just in time at the Aviva Stadium for the pre-match warm-up. It was a game he wanted desperately to win to honour his granda’s memory.
Emotional and clearly upset during the final against St. Patrick’s Athletic, the Creggan man managed to hold it together before looking to the heaven’s after the final whistle and bid his much adored granda a final farewell.
“He wouldn’t have it any other way,” said a teary eyed Doherty afterwards. “He has stood by me all my life. He was with me when I signed for Derby County all those years ago as a teenager and he had been with me ever since,” he added.
Jim passed away on Friday but Gerard and, indeed, his family circle, agreed that his grandson should take his place in the team which would represent the “Candy Stripes” in the Aviva Stadium.
“He was a great man, not just in my family, but he was held in high regard and he will be very, very sadly missed. He died at home in the company of his family and what has been a major figure in the Doherty family has now gone to rest.”
He agreed that taking part in the game was tough for him, but he felt he owed it to his grandfather and his family after what had been a very difficult time.
“Thank God I managed to get through it. I carried him into St. Mary’s Church for the Requiem Mass but I had to leave quickly and that was very difficult. I wondered was I doing the right thing even though my family were behind me.
“It was hard, very hard but I contacted my family after the game and I was told that everything had gone smoothly. They even gathered together to sit down and watch the match on television, so they were with me. They were all delighted to see us win despite the occasion,” smiled Gerard who had dedicated his Cup Final performance to his grandfather.
“Everything was offered up for Granda, but I’ve never played in a game like that before. I found myself openly crying during the match. Especially after St. Pat’s had equalised with only minutes to go. But it was nothing to do with their equaliser, it got me thinking about him again and at that stage I felt I had let him down. It was a terrible feeling, but I couldn’t stop crying.
“But our players, while many of them were out on their feet, they never stopped trying. They never gave up and then Rory Patterson scored our third goal and that gave us all tremendous boost. I started to cry again, but this time I couldn’t seem them getting a third goal as we were on a high.
“With the greatest respect to St. Pat’s, thank God they didn’t score another goal. I really do feel for them, but I was in another world. I started to think about my family, about my granda and about getting home with the FAI Cup which I will personally bring to our family home when I get back,” he claimed.
Doherty also heaped praise on the support he received on the day, but success in the FAI Cup Final - Derry City’s fifth win since 1985 - brought him great satisfaction.
“Sunday night was a good night after I’d spoken to everyone back in Derry. I was so delighted that so many supporters made the trip to Dublin and it was fabulous to see them cheering us on inside the Aviva, a magnificent stadium.
“It was heart-breaking for us when we lost the Setanta Cup Final on penalties and then with so many injuries during the season, it threatened to be a disappointing effort in 2012, but this win has changed all that and I think we deserved it in the end.
“Our full strength team was available on the day, our supporters came out in great numbers and despite the quality of the first half, we managed to get to grips with matters in the second half.
“The importance of our substitutes was also significant as Rory Patterson, Ruaidhri Higgins and Ryan McBride all played their part when coming on to help change the game, so it was a real team effort in the end and it couldn’t have worked out any better on the day both for Derry City supporters and, indeed, my own family circle,” he concluded.