DECLAN DEVINE stated after Derry City’s draw against Cork City at Turner’s Cross last week that the result would mean nothing if they didn’t get something from their trip to Dalymount Park seven days later.
Well, given the manner in which they earned yet another credible point against in-form Bohemians, who were yet to concede a single goal after four games, it’s safe to say it’s been a pretty good week for the Foylesiders.
On Friday night, Devine’s injury-stricken Candy Stripes showed that when the chips are down they possess the necessary character and resolve to dig deep and fight for what was another impressive result.
In the end this result was about grit, determination and sheer bloody-minded guts as they stood tall against an aerial bombardment and a gale force wind blowing across the pitch and into the faces of the estimated 100 strong Derry support in the Des Kelly Carpets Stand behind the goal.
When the teamsheets were distributed to the press half an hour before kick-off it caused quite a stir in the Jodi Stand given there were some key omissions from both teams.
Airtricity League ‘Player of the Month’ for February, Dinny Corcoran and experienced midfielder, Keith Buckley were both missing due to groin injuries but Devine was forced into making FOUR changes to the side which earned that point in Cork.
Barry McNamee began on the bench but David Parkhouse and Greg Sloggett - who had started every game this season - were ruled out through injury while Michael McCrudden arrived at the venue on crutches as he nurses his broken foot which will keep him out until the summer at least!
Injury woes means opportunity knocks for some of those on the fringes and in came Conor McDermott, Gerardo Bruna and Adrian Delap for their first starts of the season.
Considering the injury pile-up, the conditions and the state of the Dalymount pitch which cut up at every opportunity, this was a well earned share of the spoils which keeps the momentum going. That’s five points from three games which include a home clash with Waterford and two difficult trips to Cork and Dublin.
Peter Cherrie was outstanding and once again, producing three magnificent saves which drew high praise from Devine who hailed him as a ‘dream signing’. He turned Keith Ward’s curling free-kick over the crossbar at full stretch in the first half. He then saved superbly from Robbie McCourt before his point-saving from Bohs substitute, Daniel Grant’s close range strike on 88 minute stretched Derry’s unbeaten record at the Phibsborough venue to eight.
Rivalling Cherrie for the man of the match award was 20 year-old Toal, who alongside Ally Gilchrist, was immense in the City defence while Ciaron Harkin, handed the captain’s armband in McNamee’s absence, produced his typical energetic display which has caught the eye and earned him third place in the Player of the Month award.
It was a tale of two penalties for ex-Bohs man, Stokes. The forward had missed from the spot as Derry won 1-0 last February. And after winning the penalty six minutes after the break when Derek Pender brought him down inside the box, he coolly dispatched it to give Derry a deserved lead.
It was a case of divine or rather ‘Devine’ intervention as Bohs laid siege to the Derry goal in the shadow of the spires of St Peter’s Church during the latter stages of the game.
And they will be disappointed that James Finnerty managed to peel away at the front post and guide his shot beyond Cherrie with just 13 minutes to go.
After that Derry defended desperately but they deserved a battling point and Devine believes the performance was evident of the character within his squad.
“Character is a wonderful thing,” said Devine.
“You can build teams with good technical players but they lack character. One of the things I asked for when I came in was for a team that wanted to fight for their city and supporters.
“You seen the aerial onslaught that came at us tonight and how Ally Gilchrist, Eoin Toal, Darren Cole and Connor McDermott and Ciaran Coll dealt with that - I think that’s character building.
“I think coming away from home we shouldn’t have anything to fear but more importantly we play the champions next week and we’ll have to be better.
“We’ll have to be better with the ball and hopefully we get a few guys back. We wanted to win the game tonight and put on attacking players towards the end but it wasn’t meant to be.”