It was a night of FAI Cup redemption for Derry City midfielder, Michael Duffy on Tuesday as the ‘Candy Stripes’ finally saw off Shamrock Rovers in the semi-final replay at Brandywell Stadium.
Three days previously and the N. Ireland U21 international could have sealed the deal when gifted a glorious chance to have his name up in lights and carry City to the Aviva Stadium in dramatic fashion.
Rory Patterson did superbly to make space inside the Rovers’ penalty area in the final minutes of the game with the tie evenly poised at 1-1 but the ‘Hoops’ were suddenly let off the hook by Duffy’s procrastination.
Indeed, when the striker played the ball beautifully into the path of Duffy, the winger crucially delayed his shot and when he eventually pulled the trigger goalkeeper, Barry Murphy was well placed to make the save.
As he held his head in his hands he knew he had passed up on a gift wrapped chance - a missed opportunity he felt required an apology to his teammates.
Fast forward 48 hours and all was forgiven as he broke Rovers’ hearts with the opening goal just 60 seconds from the end of regulation time in the replay - his 16th strike of the season!
It was, he claims, one of the best feelings he’s had in his football career so far and he’s now looking ahead to being involved in his first FAI Cup final, having been an unused substitute in the 2012 showpiece.
He recalls that magical moment last Tuesday night: “The ball was slipped through by Barry (Molloy) and I don’t think the centre half saw me coming around the corner and I think he tried to clip my heels,” said Duffy. “I slipped and shanked my shot and it went in thankfully
“It was a great feeling, probably the best feeling I’ve had, especially after Sunday. I felt a lot of pressure to score after missing that chance at the end of the first tie.
“I felt I shouldn’t have been here after missing that chance. I had a chance at the start of that game and the keeper pulls off a great save and at the end I should have just hit it first time.
“That was in the 90th minute so I was just glad to see it go in the back of the net this time.
“It’s been a hard season but this will make it all worthwhile. I was there last time (2012) and I thought it was the best footballing experience that I’ve had and I wasn’t even playing so I’m sure this one will be 10 times better.”
Duffy’s contribution on Tuesday night was invaluable according to his boss, Peter Hutton who heaped praise on his willingness to attend to defensive duties.
“Michael was asked to do a defensive job to contain the forward runs of Simon Madden, a player we know all about,” explained Hutton.
“As a result, Simon (Madden) was not as prominent as he had been during the first game in Tallaght and I was delighted that our game-plan worked out well in the end.
“And for Michael to net that vital goal which gave us the breakthrough was absolutely fantastic as he missed a few chances in previous games against Athlone and, of course, in Tallaght.
“His finish was, obviously, vital for us and I don’t think he will ever forget his toe-poke high into the net,” laughed Hutton.”