DESPITE making now fewer than NINE changes, Derry City boss, Stephen Kenny, cut a particularly satisfied figure after the final whistle at the Belfield Bowl last night.
ARTHUR DUFFY was in Dublin
With just Eddie McCallion and Patrick McEleney as the only two players who started during last Friday night’s 2-2 draw Airtricity League against UCD at the same venue, Kenny’s “young guns” repaid the faith he put in them to secure a semi-final place in the EA Sports League Cup.
Each and every one of the youngsters played their part in what was sensational win but it was the performance of the inspirational Patrick McEleney that stood out as he exhibited his best display of the season.
Injuries, the threat of impending suspensions and tiredness within the squad, forced Kenny’s hand in the selection stakes but while the “regulars” failed to produce the goods on Friday, this group of youngsters were determined not to be put to the sword.
In fact, it was a pity so few supporters travelled to watch this display but for those who did, it was a very happy group who travelled back up the M50.
Derry could actually have broken the deadlock during the opening minutes when McEleney played Michael McCrudden in but the winger dragged his shot wide of the post.
And while troubled with Derry’s high tempo start, UCD went close in the 10th minute but Robbie Benson’s shot was superbly touched over the crossbar by keeper, Eugene Ferry.
Ferry came to Derry’s rescue again in the 34th minute when he blocked and gathered a Sean Russell volley from close range.
After the break, the energetic and enthusiastic young “Candy Stripes” upped the ante with McEleney always pulling the strings.
With the new look defence of McCallion, Ryan McBride, Emmet Friars and Thomas McMonagle, holding the line in the opening period, McBride start the move which saw the visitors break the deadlock.
The centre-half played a superb pass through the middle, and when the faintest of touches from McEleney sent McLaughlin scampering through, the Clonmany man gleefully rolled the ball home from inside the area.
And unlike last Friday night, the visitors maintained their focus and continued to press.
In the 53rd minute, McEleney produced a moment of brilliance, his close control bewildering no fewer that three UCD defenders and when the Derry strike made room for the shot, his effort was magnificently saved by the UCD keeper.
Moments later McEleney again worked his way into space and having beaten the keeper, the body of Michael Leahy got in the way of the ball.
But the visitors refused to take a step backwards and within seconds of that incident they had doubled their lead.
Having controlled a UCD clearance, the ball was skilfully worked into the path of Ruairi Harkin and when the midfielder let fly from 25 yards, his shot crashed into the top right hand corner of the net.
It got even better for the youngsters when ‘star-man’ McEleney presented Derry with a third goal and, indeed, their place in the League Cup semi-finals.
Having picked out the run of McCrudden on the blind side, McEleney’s incisive pass was directed into the corner of the net across the body of the stranded UCD keeper.
Derry were then presented with a penalty after an incident that also UCD right-back, Sean Harding, red carded for a last man infringement on David McDaid.
However, the striker crashed the spot-kick against the base of the upright which will have disappointed the player who had worked tirelessly throughout the game.
If the truth be told, Derry could have won this by even more with McLaughlin (twice) and substitute, Shane McEleney, denied during the latter stages with quality saves from Barron.
UCD – Barron; Harding, D. O’Connor, Leahy, Nangle; Ledwith (Kavanagh, 82), Corry (Russell, 20 mins.), P. P. O’Connor, Meenan; Benson (Doyle, 58), Rusk.
DERRY CITY – Ferry; McCallion, Friars, McBride, McMonagle; McCrudden (S. McEleney, 72), Harkin, Henry (Heaney, 89), McLaughlin; P. McEleney, McDaid (Curran, 86).
REFEREE – Mr. Rob Rogers (Dublin).