DERRY City’s highly respected custodian, Gerard Doherty, has been basking in personal glory over recent weeks, but what he would do for a good night’s sleep!
ARTHUR DUFFY REPORTS
With wife Adele having given birth to twin sons eight weeks ago, Killian and Cian have yet to settle and with three and a half years-old Lenan also struggling with the domestic situation at the moment, the Doherty house is experiencing it’s fair share of turmoil.
Therefore, it comes as no great surprise that Gerard was praying for an “away” fixture for the Brandywell club in last night’s FAI Cup quarter-final draw.
With tongue-in-cheek Gerard, who also celebrated his 31st birthday on Friday night, said: “An away draw in the quarter-final and the further away from Derry the better! Anything to get an overnight stay and the joy of a good night’s sleep!”
The Creggan man, who also celebrated a new record having passed Dermot O’Neill’s record of 84 clean sheets in the previous game against Bray Wanderers, was thrilled to make it 86 on Friday to cap the FAI Cup victory over UCD and, of course, his birthday celebrations.
“I didn’t know anything about the ‘clean sheets’ record until Declan told me recently, so I had an added incentive going into the Bray match and, of course, in last Friday night’s trip to UCD.
“Obviously, every goalkeeper wants to record regular clean-sheets but, in fairness, I think the return to action of Stewart Greacen, tells its own story,” continued Gerard.
“He’s been a fabulous player at the back for us. He has great experience, he is very vocal and I think it’s fair to say that he’s a born leader in our defence.”
However, as has been the case with so many who view Friday night’s 0-1 victory in the Belfield Bowl, Doherty was far from pleased with the match official’s handling of the proceedings on the night.
While David McDaid again netted one of his regular vital goals for his home town club, Greacen’s night was soured when he received a second yellow card, three minutes from the end!
“He was furious with that decision,” declared Gerard. “And I would have to agree with him as the referee did him no favours and, I have to insist, actually got things wrong on the night.”
Doherty, who whipped the ball clear after the Scot had made a tackle during the latter stages, claimed that referee, Anthony Buttimer, appeared to get things mixed up during that particular incident.
“The referee admitted initially that he had booked Stewart for kicking the ball away. However, when he was approached by one of his assistants on the line, he then came over and booked me for kicking the ball away.
“And while we continued to challenge his decision for actually showing Stewart a second yellow card, he said he was now booking him for the tackle.
“It was a very harsh decision for the big man to take,” continued Gerard. “And there’s nothing he can do about it now. He will miss another few games due to suspension which is unfair.”
Doherty saw no problems in relation to the tackle. “I felt it was a good tackle. Stewart won the ball but I think he’s starting to get booked because he appears to be aggressive in the tackle, despite the fact that he won the ball cleanly.
“But it doesn’t take me to tell anyone that senior, experienced players don’t get booked with three minutes remaining, especially when they’ve already received a yellow card in the first half,” noted the Derry keeper.
And Doherty was confused with Mr. Buttimer’s insistence on punctuating what was a fluent game with controversial yellow cards.
“I thought the referee was a wee bit over the top when booking UCD players during the first half. After all, there wasn’t a bad tackle in the entire match - there never is against UCD,” insisted Gerard.
“Yet the referee booked two of their players during the first half and he then felt he was obliged to book everybody and anybody should he see a robust tackle.
“I think the official lost the plot a bit. UCD continue to be a team which always favours playing attacking football. The students play without fear and rarely come under pressure in their games.
“And it was the same on Friday night. We started very well, they came back into it after 20 minutes or so and caused us a few problems. But there were no over-the-top or dangerous tackles, just good honest play.
“UCD always play without fear, they are never under pressure to win games and they have produced some superb performances against the top teams. In fact, there are very few who would regard UCD as an over-robust team.
“I have always enjoyed playing against them for that very reason. They have produced some fabulous young players over the years and Martin Russell has maintained the same philosophy which has been associated with the students for so long.”
Delighted to have progressed to the last eight in the FAI Cup, Doherty felt it would be great if Derry could go on a decent Cup run this season given the disappointment which has followed the league campaign.
“I’m not trying to make excuses, but we really have been crucified with injuries this season. Long term injuries to key players has been very hard to take at times and when I look at the difference Stewart (Greacen) has made on his return, it just goes to show what we’ve been missing in defence.
“Thankfully Kevin Deery is well on his way back and it would be great to have a fully fit Kevin Deery available for the final run-in as it could prove to be important for us.”
On a personal level, Doherty continues to keep his head down and get on with his job by making vital saves in vital games.
“I’m happy with my own level of performance. I try to work hard and give 100 per cent in every game I play - as do all the players - but I really do think we’ve been so unlucky this season with injuries.
“Looking back to Friday night, we’ve also been very unlucky with decisions from referees with Simon Madden also sent off on our last visit to UCD which was another disgraceful decision, but nothing can be done about that.
“We’ve had an up and down sort of season and if we can just get a few bodies back I’d be confident that we can make a good effort in getting back up the Premier Division table as we attempt to finish in as high a position as possible this season,” he concluded.
The goal which confirmed Derry’s progression to the quarter-finals was netted in the 72nd minute following a Madden corner.
The Dubliner’s centre saw UCD keeper, Mark McGinley, attempt to intercept the ball but when he failed to make any connection and after a poor defensive header by Tomas Boyle, Shane McEleney’s header was blocked on the line before the ball broke to David McDaid and he squeezed it home from close range.
Stewart Greacen’s controversial sending-off followed in the 87th minute with the Limerick match official, no doubt, happy to sound the final whistle on a very open game in which he really did struggle to control.
UCD - McGinley; Douglas, Boyle, Leahy, Nangle; Burke (Kavanagh, 78), McCabe (Ledwith, 78), O’Connor, McNelis (Lyons, 62); Benson, McMillan. Subs. not used: Barron, Doyle and Clarke.
DERRY CITY - Doherty; Madden, S. McEleney, Greacen, B. McNamee; Morrison (Curran, 92), McBride (P. McEleney, 45), Higgins, Molloy, McLaughlin; McDaid. Subs. not used: Ferry, Rooney and Henry.
REFEREE - Mr. Anthony Buttimer (Limerick).