DERRY CITY: Cork crowned champions as Derry secure European spot at Turner's Cross
Cork City 0, Derry City 0
IT WAS a case of mission accomplished for both sides as Derry City held Cork City to a share of the spoils at a sold-out Turner's Cross - a result which saw the Rebels finally clinch a first SSE Airtricity Premier Division title since 2005.
It was an encouraging display from the Candy Stripes who enjoyed the better of the scoring chances but the point was enough to rubber stamp fourth spot and qualification for next season's UEFA Europa League with two games remaining in the 2017 campaign.
However the night belonged to John Caulfield's men who, at last, deservedly wrapped up the league title despite registering just a single win in the last seven games since August to be crowned champions for the third time in their 33-year history.
Shiels will be glad to see the back of Cork this season having spent the last three days in the city holed up in a hotel with preparations disrupted by Storm Ophelia which ripped the roof off the Derrynane Stand at Turners Cross and put the fixture in doubt.
However, the Candy Stripes looked more than prepared for this one and were set up to contain Cork who played into the Shed End in the first half during what was a comfortable opening 45 minutes for the visitors - a far cry from the last meeting between the teams at the venue where the Leesiders romped to a heavily one-sided 3-0 victory in front of the RTE cameras back in April!
Shiels had made one change in personnel to the team which defeated Finn Harps 3-0 in the North West Derby last Friday night with Dean Jarvis restored to the starting XI at left back, replacing Lukas Schubert who dropped to the bench while Ben Doherty began the game on the right wing.
For Cork, in came Steven Beattie for Kieran Sadlier and former Derry City midfielder, Conor McCormack was favoured to Greg Bolger who began on the home bench.
Chances were at a premium in the opening stages of the game as City frustrated Cork who were unable to get in behind the visiting defence in the opening stages despite dominating possession in Derry territory while City's early tactics were clearly to hit their hosts on the counter.
It was the Candy Stripes who tried their luck on goal first on 16 minutes when Ronan Curtis played the ball inside to Aaron McEneff who took a touch before firing wildly over the crossbar.
Unable to break down a resolute Derry defence, Cork midfielder, Gerroid Morrisey attempted to find the target under pressure from 25 yards but he blasted his ambitious shot high and wide of the target on 26 minutes.
Barry McNamee did superbly to dispossess his former teammate, Stephen Dooley just inside the Derry half and played Rory Patterson through on goal but the striker's delicate chip towards goal was tipped behind by the backpeddling Mark McNulty on 28 minutes.
Harry Monaghan really should've broken the deadlock on the half hour mark when he was gifted a free header from an Aaron McEneff in-swinging corner kick but the Scot sent his powerful effort over the bar from five yards.
The Rebels did claim for a penalty kick when Buckley went down inside the penalty area under the challenge of Curtis but referee, Ray Matthews waved play on.
Cork looked most dangerous from set-pieces and when McEneff fouled Garry Buckley in a promising position in front of the Derry goal, the Cork midfielder curled the resultant free-kick around the wall but safely into the hands of City skipper, Gerard Doherty - it was Cork's first effort on target with 39 minutes on the clock!
Derry skipper, Doherty needed to be alert to palm away Morrissey's curling effort from wide on the left flank in first half stoppage time but it was an encouraging first half from the Candy Stripes who went in on level terms.
Cork started the second half positively and Jimmy Keohane cut inside from the right wing and his left footed shot from the edge of penalty box went comfortably into the hands of Doherty.
As the minutes ticked down Cork were growing into the game, dominating the ball without ever troubling the Derry defence and one got the impression both teams would've been content with a precious point for differing reasons.
The game petered out and finally the whistle went as Cork, who had been bridesmaids to Dundalk for the past three seasons, were confirmed as 2017 champions as they moved seven points clear on the summit. And they will look to complete the 'double' in the FAI Cup Final at the Aviva Stadium where they meet the Lilywhites next month.
For Derry, back to back qualification for the UEFA Europa League must be considered a monumental achievement given the tragic loss of influential skipper, Ryan McBride at the start of a hugely difficult campaign which has saw them play their home fixtures at their temporary base in Maginn Park as Brandywell Stadium is redeveloped.
And although European football will be coming to the refurbished Brandywell next season, Shiels won't be settling with fourth spot and with games against Sligo Rovers and St Patrick's Athletic to come, he'll have Shamrock Rovers and third spot locked in his sights,
Cork City: M. McNulty; S. Beattie (C. McCarthy 70), A. Bennett, R. Delaney, S. Griffin; J. Keohane, C. McCormack, G. Buckley, S. Dooley (K. Sadlier 61), G. Morrissey; K. Sheppard (A. Campion 92); Subs Not Used - G. Bolger, C. Ellis, R. Williams, A. Smith.
Derry City: G. Doherty; C. McDermott, D. Cole, A. Barry, D. Jarvis (N. Low 77); B. Doherty, A. McEneff, H. Monaghan, R. Curtis; B. McNamee;. R. Patterson; Subs Not Used - E. Grimes, J. McIntyre, S. Todd, E. Toal, L. Schubert, S. McBride.
Referee - Ray Matthews (Mullingar)