Derry City book EA Sports Cup Final spot
Sligo Rovers 0-1 Derry City
RORY HALE'S thunderous first half goal sent Derry City into the 2018 EA Sports Cup Final as they battled to a deserved victory over Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds.
It was a case of third time lucky for City boss, Kenny Shiels who had previously lost two cup semi-finals with the Candy Stripes as the Brandywell club clinched a first Cup final appearance since the 2014 FAI Cup showpiece.
And First Division outfit, Cobh Ramblers now stand in their way of a first League Cup title since the 2011 victory over Cork City following their shock 1-0 win over holders Dundalk.
It was a first clean sheet for Shiels' men in 13 attempts and they had skipper Gerard Doherty to thank as the Creggan man produced three fantastic saves to keep intact the slender lead, the best coming with two minutes remaining to keep out substitute, Rafa Cretaro's point blank effort.
The result was even more satisfying given Shiels was down to the bare bones with striker, Ally Roy cup-tied and no fewer than FOUR defenders on the suspended list Eoin Toal, Darren Cole, Gavin Peers and Jamie McDonagh.
Nicky Low remained sidelined through injury but Conor McDermott made a welcome return to the starting XI alongside Ben Doherty and Ronan Hale.
Gerard Lyttle made just the one change from Friday night's comeback victory over Derry at Brandywell with Kris Twardek replacing Jack Keaney as the Bit O'Red enjoyed home advantage for the first time since June 30th.
It was a slow burner with chances at a premium in the opening stages. However, Lewis Morrison almost got onto the end of a clever flick over the top from Rhys McCabe but Ben Fisk did superbly to track back and just put it behind for a corner.
Sligo carved open a promising chance on 16 minutes following good work on the right side of the Derry penalty area by Twardek who cut it back into the path of Morrison, but the frontman fluffed his lines completely.
It was a let-off for the visitors and it was the Candy Stripes who broke the deadlock on 25 minutes as the Hale brothers linked up well on the edge of the Sligo 18 yard box.
Ronan cut inside from the left flank, beat his man and laid it into the path of Rory who took a touch before rifliing his blistering shot into the top corner of the net from 22 yards - his second goal of the season!
Sligo attempted to hit back and once again Morrison was gifted a decent chance on 33 minutes when Mikey Drennan found him lurking just inside the box but he curled his first time effort high and wide.
David Cawley made a yard of space 20 yards from the Derry goal with a neat turn before sending his left footed strike towards goal but Gerard Doherty gathered at the second attempt.
Doherty produced a fantastic stop on 44 minutes to deny Drennan's diving header following an inswinging free-kick from Regan Donelon as the City skipper acrobatically tipped the goalbound effort over the crossbar.
Sligo came so close to finding an equaliser five minutes after the break when Lynch's cross found Donelon who was allowed to bring the ball down on the penalty spot but his attempt on the half volley went agonisingly over the crossbar.
Ronan Hale tested Beeney when he slipped the ball through the legs of Cawley on the edge of the penalty area but the Sligo keeper parried away his right-footed strike at full stretch.
At the other end Doherty made another outstanding save to keep out substiutute, Rafa Cretaro's effort as he dug it out from the bottom corner on 67 minutes.
The Tubbercurry man headed wide of the target after rising at the back post to meet Twardek's corner kick moments later during a period of sustained pressure from the Bit O'Red.
Beeney was called into action to parry Aarom McEneff's well struck long range effort. However, Derry were living dangerously and Cretaro again came close when his volley into the ground bounced narrowly over.
And the diminutive striker was somehow denied at the back post by a terrific reaction save from Doherty who palmed clear Cretaro's insitinctive strike at point blank range with two minutes to go.
With five additional minutes signaled Derry did well to close out the game as they look forward to a first cup final in four years against Cobh Ramblers on September 16th.
Sligo Rovers: M. Beeney: K. McFadden, J. Mahon, P. McClean; K. Twardek, D. Cawley, R. McCabe, R. Donelon (C. McAleer 85); L. J. Lynch, M. Drennan, L. Morrison (R. Cretaro 59); Subs Not Used - E. McGinty, J. Keaney, L .Kerrigan, S. Sharkey, A. Wixted.
Derry City: G. Doherty; C. McDermott (A. Delap 79), D. Seaborne., K. McHattie, B. Doherty; Ronan Hale, A. Splaine, R. Hale, B. Fisk (S. McBride 89); A. McEneff; D. Shiels; Subs Not Used - E. Grimes, C. Farren, E. Tweed, K. Farren, S. McNamee.
Referee - G. Kelly.