Derry City suffer penalty heartbreak for second time in 72 hours as St. Pat's knock out FAI Cup holders
Derry City 0, St Patrick's Athletic 0
(St. Pat's win 4-3 on penalties)
Getting knocked out of two competitions in less than 72 hours is hard is hard to take. Getting knocked out twice on penalties, without conceding a goal and having won one match and drawn the other is scarcely believable!
Yet that’s the reality Derry City must face after St. Patrick's Athletic's rearguard Brandywell action gave 15 year old Mason Melia the penalty that ensured there will be a new name on the Sports Direct FAI Cup in 2023.
With the emotionally charged European Conference League penalty defeat to Tobol still fresh in the minds of players and supporters, Derry once again dominated but the failure to find a break through in 120 plus minutes meant a second shoot-out in less than three days. And a second round of heartache as Michael Duffy and Mark Connolly missed from the spot after Derry had initially gained the upper hand through Jake Mulraney's miss.
Ruaidhri Higgins’ team were once again the better side and deserved more than they got, despite the rigours of their European adventure. Two clean sheets; one win and one draw yet two cup exits. It doesn’t add up!
Now they face 10 cup finals in the final league games. But should they continue to produce the level of performances they have in recent weeks, the dice won't always fall as they have in the last two games. It's still all to play for.
With the disappointment of Tallaght still fresh, Higgins made four changes in a bid to freshen things up, Shane McEleney, Brandon Kavanagh, Cameron Dummigan and birthday boy Ciaran Coll coming in with Ben Doherty, Mark Connolly, Michael Duffy and Sadou Diallo starting on a strong looking bench that also included Patrick McEleney.
Conventional wisdom stated it was Derry who had the miles in their legs but you wouldn't have known it from the opening half. With Adam O'Reilly and Cameron Dummigan providing both a midfield base to build from, and protection for an attack minded back four, Derry dominated without ever managing to create a clear cut opportunity.
They managed plenty of half chances, many of which began with a Brian Maher pass, the Derry No. 1 giving an exhibition of the sweeper keeper role with some pinpoint distribution.
Adam O'Reilly and the lively Paul McMullan both saw snapshots saved while Dummigan was next to test the water but while Derry's build up play and energy was impressive they were unable to fashion any clear cut chances.
The closest the home side managed was a flowing move that saw McMullan eventually release Patching in space just inside the area. The Stockport native's effort looked goalbound until a brilliant block from John Alan McGrath took it behind.
If anything the two best chances of the half fell to a Pat's side that struggled to get close to the home penalty area for more than half an hour.
Yet for all the home side's probing and passing, St. Pat's twice had chances to grab what would have been an undeserved lead. First Conor Carty did superbly to roll McJannet from a throw in but with the Pat's forward tried a difficult lofted finsih which saw the ball clear both Maher and crossbar.
The Dubliner went ever closer a minute before the break when Forrester found Jason McClelland whose delightful pass inside Coll gave Sam Curtis the opportunity to strike for goal and Derry were grateful to Maher's outstretched leg for again diverting it behind as the half ended scoreless.
Derry remained on the front foot after the restart but again with little incident of note in either box, Derry limited to shots from distance as McGonigle, Patching and McMullan again tried their luck.
An injury for Shane McEleney saw the introduction of Mark Connolly and Higgins took the opportunity to thrust Michael Duffy back into action while Pat's also made a double change as Thomas Lonergan and Jake Mulraney entered the fray. And the reaction was immediate at both ends of the pitch.
First Coll had the perfect chance to mark his birthday with a goal when he ghosted into the area to meet Dummigan's cross but could only send his 12 yard header wide of the far post. That was cloise but two minutes later McGonigle went closer when he met Kavangh's cross superbly only to see Lyness get his finger tips to it to help it just over the bar.
Then it was Pat's turn to go close as Brian Maher show he had filed his Euro penalty disappointment in the drawer marked 'past' with a match winning save. It was the two Pat's subs who combined, Mulraney picking out Lonergan with a beautiful cross. Lonergan's header was good, but Maher's save was better, the Derry No. 1 showing reacting brilliantly to push the header away.
As the game hit its final 10 minutes Derry went went even closer. Ben Doherty's run was abruptly ended by a challenge that brought Lennon a booking and Patching was inches away from extracting the perfect retribution as he watched his superb free-kick come back off the inside of the post.
With neither side able to make the break through, Derry were in their second period of extra-time in less than 72 hours.
With the first half of the extra period passing with little incident of note, Derry remained in the ascendency but Redmond and McGrath were proving a tough defensive act to break.
Danny Mullan got on the end of a Duffy cross in the second period of extra-time but again Redmond was there to block a shot that looked destined for the net. There would be no way past for either side. It was penalties. And heartbreak once more.