Derry City Ladies 2, Lisburn Ladies 0
Derry City Ladies manager Liam McKinney has heaped praise on his very own ‘Quad Squad’ after the Brandywell club sealed an historic fourth trophy of the season with victory over Lisburn Ladies in the Northern Ireland Women’s F.A. Championship League Cup Final at Mayola Park on Friday.
While their male counterparts hover perilously close to the relegation zone in the SSE Airtricity Premier Division, the Ladies have had a season to remember. Having won both the Foyle Cup and ‘Ballymena Sevens’ earlier in the season, the female ‘Candy Stripes’ sealed the league title and promotion into the NIWFA Premiership last week when Valley Rangers conceded the final league fixture leaving Friday the opportunity to seal a City ‘clean sweep’.
Two weeks previously, the sides had fought out a thrilling 3-3 draw at Drumahoe but, as they have done all season, the local ladies produced a big performance on the big stage as second half goals from Rosie Cunningham and substitute Kerri McIntosh sealed a 2-0 triumph.
“We’ve done this all season, every time we get to a cup final or a big match, we start slow and we finish big,” exsplained a delighted Derry manager.
“We knew Lisburn would be very physical and come at us, so we knew if we weathered the storm in the first half, we could go out and push on in the second half.”
Lisburn had started brightly with full-back Abbie Burnett twice setting up golden opportunities for her side which were cleared by Derry City captain and centre back Shannon Dunne.
Derry slowly began to feel their way into the game but Lisburn dominated the first half and had another great chance when their left back got into the box and hit a shot which was prevented from crossing the line by Dunne’s sliding tackle.
Derry had arguably their best chance of the first half on 20 minute when left winger Cunningham found herself with more space in the box but could only blast over the crossbar.
The last chance of the half fell to the Lisburn’s Stacey Hamilton who found herself through on Derry keeper, Molly McBride, but the City No. 1 did well to save.
It took until the 56th minute for the deadlock to be broken. A series of defensive errors in the Lisburn box saw Cunningham latch onto the bobbling ball and make no mistake to put Derry ahead.
Derry had settled more into the game now but on 69 minutes a defensive lapse by McCauley allowed Lisburn substitute Sara Stevenson a chance but the striker shot well over the bar.
With 20 minutes to go, the Lisburn striker was played through for what looked like a certain goal but an astounding last ditch tackle from Dunne saved the ‘Candy Stripes’ and gave Derry the boost they needed to push on.
Only a few minutes later, a mis-clearance by Lisburn saw McIntosh run onto the loose ball and finish emphatically from the edge of the box past the oncoming Lisburn keeper.
Sarah Bergin was exceptional in the Derry midfield all game, and even in the last 10 minutes, she encompassed the fighting spirit of the Brandywell side as she pressed valiantly, creating an opportunity that unfortunately trickled past the post for a goal kick.
The last few minutes passed without issue for City, and as the final whistle blew there were ecstatic scenes after what has been a truly unbelievable season although the Derry manager expects next year to be an even bigger challenge.
“We’re under no illusions about what’s ahead of us but we’ve a very young side and we’ve more players looking to come and join us,” added McKinney, “We are going to push on and stay up in that Premier Division, I have no doubt about that.
“Derry City CEO, Sean Barrett, and the committee have been fully behind us. They have backed us to the hilt this year and provided everything for us. They have looked after the girls right through the year, and this is just reward for them as much as it is for us.”
Captain Shannon Dunne echoed her manager’s comments about the game and admitted they had been slow to start,
“The first half, we didn’t start” conceded Shannon, “We didn’t get into it at all but we had a good half-time talk and got ourselves going. In the second half we came out and we started to lift our spirits and play as a team – as we have been all year. The character in our team this year has been phenomenal but we want to keep building and building.”
“We’re Derry City, we don’t fear big teams. We’ll be prepared, come January we’ll be fit and ready to go. Pre-season will be tough but we’re ready for it. Bring it on.”