TIMING CAN prove critical when it comes to preparing for a cup final and the way in which Derry City have ended their league campaign surely bodes well as attention now switches to the Aviva Stadium in less than two weeks time.
SIMON COLLINS was at
Photos: LORCAN DOHERTY
Three highly impressive league victories on the bounce during the month of October against Dundalk (4-0), Shamrock Rovers (1-3) and probably most satisfying of all, St Patrick’s Athletic have seen the Brandywell club hit top form at just the right time.
The injuries which curtailed City’s league campaign have subsided and momentum is certainly building towards the season’s climax.
Little wonder then that the club’s leading goalscorer, David McDaid is looking forward to the November 4th showpiece having taken his personal tally to 17 goals with what proved the winning strike against the Inchicore men as Derry ended their league season on a high.
That strike was his 10th goal in 11 games and takes him to within six goals of last season’s PFAI ‘Player of the Year’ winner, Eamon Zayed’s impressive total last year.
McDaid has surprised even himself with his contribution this term but the disappointment expressed in his post-match interview having failed to add to that tally against the ‘Saints’ says a great deal about his attitude.
Derry boss, Declan Devine experimented with a 4-4-1-1 formation on Friday night with the in-form Barry McNamee spearheading a midfield ‘diamond’ with McDaid operating as a lone striker. And it proved particularly effective during the opening 45 minutes.
It was the combination of McNamee and McDaid which fashioned the second goal of the game as the Ramelton lad split the defence with a measured pass into the path of his colleague who gleefully added the finish.
“We’re getting bodies back but we’re in for a really tough game at the Aviva,” said McDaid. “They weren’t at their best but there’s no doubting they’re a great side.
“The cup final will be a special occasion, especially for the younger boys and myself because I’ve never played there before and I can’t wait.
“Luckily enough I’ve got another goal so I’m in decent form personally, but I really should’ve had another two or three goals to be fair.
“I had a gilt-edged chance in the first half and the one in the second half I thought it was going in but it just crept past the post. But really I should have scored and the game should’ve been dead and buried at that stage.
“If I had netted that chance before half-time it would’ve been 3-0 and they weren’t coming back from that. But at 2-0 they scored at the start of the second half and they made it hard for us then.
“That’s actually 18 goals this season for me but they’re taking one off because of the one I scored against Monaghan.
“I never thought at the start of the season I would score so many. I didn’t actually think I would play as much as I have. I’ve played a lot of games and I’m delighted with it.
“That’s four goals in five games and 10 in 11 games so I’m pleased with my form. The whole team has been brilliant this past month everybody has really rallied together and hopefully we can take that form into the FAI Cup Final.”
The victory will likely have little or no bearing on the outcome of the cup final but it will certainly give the Brandywell club an extra spring in its step.
The home side produced a dominant first half performance against the ‘Super Saints’ which ultimately won the game and left Liam Buckley’s men searching a draw against Cork next week to cement the runners-up spot. And whether or not an extra week’s rest over their cup final opponents will work in Derry’s favour remains to be seen.
It was a superb prelude to FAI showpiece as both sides produced an enthralling encounter.
And the home side had keeper, Gerard Doherty to thank in the second half after he produced two superb match-winning saves.
In the end it was Derry’s first half dominance which ensured victory with goals from Simon Madden and David McDaid’s fourth goal in five league games proving enough, despite Chris Forrester’s second half strike sparking a fight-back from the Saints.
The ‘Candy Stripes’ burst out of the traps and stunned the visitors when breaking the deadlock after just five minutes. Madden latched onto Stewart Greacen’s long ball on the right wing, stole between two defenders and deftly guided the ball into the net past the helpless Murphy who raced prematurely off his line.
The home lot continued to dominate and the danger signs were there for the visitors on 34 minutes when Stephen McLaughlin slotted the ball through to McDaid and the striker’s low shot was saved by Murphy.
Finally the visiting support had something to cheer about one minute later when Christy Fagan made space inside the Derry penalty area but his shot was bravely closed down by Greacen and the move came to nothing.
In a frantic end to the first half Derry extended their advantage as McNamee stole possession in the final third and split the defence with a pass into the path of McDaid whose shot struck Murphy and deflected into the net.
In the final minute of the half Fagan was gifted possession 18 yards from the Derry goal and, having rounded Gerard Doherty, he blasted his shot high over the bar from a narrow angle.
After the break McDaid came agonisingly close to adding a third when he chased down Madden’s searching pass but with Murphy racing from his line, the Derry striker’s shot flashed across the face of goal and wide.
St Pat’s reduced the deficit on 57 minutes when Forrester made the most of Greacen’s misplaced pass, ran towards goal and finished clinically past Doherty from 25 yards.
Doherty then came to his side’s rescue on 64 minutes when James Chambers expertly controlled Anto Flood’s flick-on but his powerful close range effort was superbly palmed behind by the Derry stopper.
St Pat’s began to turn the screw as Derry were clinging on tenaciously. And when Chambers floated a dangerous free-kick into the Derry area, Vinny Faherty’s header shaved the outside of the post.
The Dubliners were desperately seeking that crucial equaliser which would guarantee second spot and they were denied once again by an outstanding save from Doherty who got a strong hand to John Russell’s long range effort.
And Conor Kenna’s header struck the inside of the post before it was cleared off the line in what was the final action of the game as Derry held on.
Derry City – 4-5-1 - G. Doherty; D. McCaffrey, S. Greacen, S.McEleney, S. Madden; S. McLaughlin, R. Higgins, B. Molloy (K.Deery 45), P. McEleney (M. Brolly 85), B. McNamee; D. McDaid (C. Murphy 70); Subs Not Used – E. Ferry, R. McBride, C. Bonner, R. Curran.
St Pat’s – 4-1-4-1 - B. Murphy; J. Carroll, C. Kenna, K. Browne, P. Flynn; V. Flaherty, J. Chambers, J. Russell, C. Forrester, J. Kelly (D. Meenan 56, G. Bolger 82) ; C. Fagan (A. Flood 58); Subs Not Used – B. Clarke, K. Farragher, A. Price, R. Coombes.
Referee – Dave McKeon (Dublin).