City of Derry 20, U.C.C. 21
Kidney - son of former Ireland Head Coach, Declan - took advantage of a period of sustained, second half Cork pressure to edge his team ahead and with it, most probably condemn City of Derry to Division 2B.
Terry McMaster’s men now require a highly improbable run of results on the final day to have any chance. They are unlikely to get them, not with the way their luck has gone this season.
No team in the division has amassed more losing bonus points than Derry which highlights some of the games that ‘got away’. That has been frustrating but it pales into insignificance next to a crippling injury/absentee list which has cost Derry severely this season. Key men missing for sustained periods and Saturday was no different.
With Andrew Semple’s six week suspension for dissent toward a match official ruling him out for the remainder of the season and Richard McCarter unavailable, Derry were already missing the decision-making heart of the team before they then lost the experienced second-row Bob McKillop and centre Chris Barber to injury inside half an hour.
The absence of Derry’s first choice half-back partnership was critical and dictated an open game which suited the Students though there was nothing between the two teams with hooker David Ferguson and full-back David Graham superb for the home team.
Derry pummelled the Cork line following Kidney’s penalty and only the most marginal of decisions from referee Dermot Blake - with Derry 5m out - stopped the home side and brought the game to a halt. It could easily have gone the other way leaving Derry a penalty to win. Those are the margins and too often this season Derry have found themselves on the wrong side of that thin dividing line.
The defeat leaves Derry 12th on 30 points, four behind both UCC and Nenagh who are directly above them with Nenagh occupying that crucial 10th position. Nenagh finish with a home game against Rainey while UCC host Blackrock. Derry require both to lose without picking up a bonus point while simultaneously winning away at Seapoint. A point for either UCC or Nenagh means drawing level is the best Derry can hope for but if either wins, they will be out of Derry’s reach.
Three times on Saturday Derry led and had the clocked ticked on for another minute or so, they may have led a fourth time but their current predicament is not based around one result or one brave performance against a team who, like Derry, should not have found itself in this position.
The home side could not have got off to a better start with Ferguson, who drove his team forward all day, crashing over for the game’s opening try 90 seconds in. The lead didn’t last long though as 10 minutes later Cork winger Killian Ansboro replied with another unconverted try to set the tone for a game which would swing one way, then the other.
Straight from the restart, Ferguson made another incisive break which tied up three UCC backs. He was stopped short but Derry quickly switched play right where Adam Bratton had come in off the wing to force his way over between the posts. Henderson this time converted and with 14 minutes on the clock, Derry led 12-5.
With McKillop having hobbled off on 15 minutes, Cork reduced the deficit to 12-8 through a Kidney penalty before Barber then exited proceedings with what looked like a recurrence of the shoulder injury which has disrupted much of his last 18 months.
When Peter Henderson failed to find touch in very difficult kicking conditions just before half-time, Cork were allowed to run the ball back through four players with hooker Brian Vaughan eventually scoring to leave it 12-13 at the break.
The second half started in similar fashion with a Kidney chip forward ending in another try for Ansboro but Davy Houston replied by getting on the end of a brilliant Derry move to score a try which left it 17-18.
Henderson kicked Derry 20-18 ahead from a 56th minute penalty but Cork responded by laying siege to the home line and were only kept out by some heroic Derry defence. They stopped them crossing but only at the expense of a penalty; a penalty which looks like making all the difference to Derry’s season.