THERE will be very little talk in relation to the quality performance of match referee, Anthony Buttimer, at Tolka Park on Wednesday night, the Cork official, who retires at the end of the season, actually delighting the Derry attendance of 500.
PATRICK MAHER was at Tolka Park
Having skilfully negotiated their way past Shelbourne to guarantee a repeat of the 2008 final where they face St. Pat’s in the Aviva Stadium on November 4th next, Mr. Buttimer had a decent game despite incurring the wrath of the Shels’ support in the second half.
However, Wednesday’s “man of the match,” Stephen McLaughlin had a point to prove as he had been embarrassed and annoyed with his own performance at the Brandywell on Sunday.
The 22-year-old from Inishowen’s Isle of Doagh certainly made amends for what he described as a bitterly disappointing effort in last weekend’s FAI Cup clash.
“I was just returning from injury having had to get an injection for a groin problem and during Sunday’s match I felt my fitness and sharpness just wasn’t there - and it showed,” he claimed.
“I was very disappointed with my own performance, especially with members of my family watching the game and the fact that it was also ‘live’ on television.
“There’s no way of hiding a poor performance but given that we were still in the FAI Cup with the 1-1 result, I promised the rest of the lads that it would not be like that in the replay on Wednesday night and, thankfully, that’s the way it turned out,” he smiled.
McLaughlin, who has netted vital goals at Dublin venues in particular this season, also scored on his last visit to Tolka in August - as did Derry’s other scorer on Wednesday night, Davy McDaid.
“Davy and I scored in the 2-0 win at Tolka Park in August and we talked about that match before this game. Every game we play we believe we can win, provided that we perform to the best of our ability. We knew that if we repeated the performance we gave against them in August, we would beat them again if we could take our chances in front of goal.
“And that’s the way it was. We realise we had to start well, work very hard for each other and hunt them down every time they were in possession of the ball and we started to force them into mistakes,” suggested McLaughlin.
But he agreed that his “Candy Stripes” did not have it all their own way during the first half adding that Derry did take the lead against the balance of play in the opening period.
“We were very lucky on occasions,” maintained the winger. “Patrick (McEleney) made a great clearance off our goal-line while Gerard (Doherty) pulled off a magnificent save to keep us in the game and to score a goal when the other team was on top which made it all the more pleasing.
“But to score with just one minute to go before half-time was a body blow to them and thanks to the absolute brilliance of Simon Madden, I was lucky to score again at Tolka.
“Simon does that week in and week out. He took three or four of their players out of the game with his run and then drove the ball into the box leaving me to tap in it, I always knew what he was going to do.
“It was brilliant to score that goal as I think it took a bit of the pressure off us and placed it back on them.”
Having been switched to the right from his normal berth on the left flank with 10 minutes of the first half remaining, McLaughlin made his presence felt and having remained on that flank for the start of the second half, he netted his second goal in the 62nd minute - a magnificent solo effort.
“Once I got the ball back, I turned inside and headed for their penalty area and I couldn’t believe it when I looked up and was looking straight at their keeper. So I had a go with my left foot and the ball found the corner of the net. It was brilliant and I felt that I had made up for the disappointing performance on Sunday,” he added.
Having been voted the “Man of the Match” for his brace of strikes, McLaughlin will have been challenged by Stewart Greacen, Kevin Deery and Barry Molloy, who all gave top notch performances for the visitors who appear to be getting stronger as the season draws to a close.
McLaughlin agreed: “Every game we have played this season - home or away - we believe we could win, provided that we produce a performance and, thankfully, we did that in this match.
“I felt it was a comfortable victory as they struggled to play through us in the second half and I suppose when we scored against the run of play and then added a second, Davy’s goal killed the match off and, in the end, I don’t think there will be any complaints,” smiled the Inishowen man.
So it’s onto the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, November 4th to face the might of St. Patrick’s Athletic in what will be a repeat of the 2008 final at the old Lansdowne Road, Derry winning 4-3 after extra-time.
And McLaughlin simply can’t wait. “We’ve had a bit of a frustrating season due to injuries to our best players, but I think now to have now reached the FAI Cup Final is a fabulous way to finish off the campaign.
“Obviously, the key now is to win the trophy and look forward to playing in the Setanta Cup and in Europe next season.”
However, before that there’s the simple matter of two more league games - away to Shamrock Rovers tomorrow night and, of course, the final home game of the season against - St. Pat’s this night week!
Fabulous Individual Effort
McLaughlin’s second strike was, indeed, a superb individual effort in the 62nd minute and it was that goal which saw Derry City comfortably through to the FAI Showpiece next month, for the first time in four years.
But let’s not forget the effort of Davy McDaid who maintained his consistent scoring touch with City’s third goal - his fifth in this competition this season - as the “Foylesiders” advanced to set up a repeat of the 2006 final when they defeated St. Patrick’s Athletic.
And this win was no more than Derry deserved as a very disjointed Shelbourne rarely played with any fluency and Alan Mathew’s men can have no complaints.
Holding the view that they had let Shelbourne off the hook in the second half of Sunday’s first game at the Brandywell, Derry started the more purposefully, even though they failed to work Shels’ keeper, Chris Bennion, during the early stages of what proved an end-to-end game.
Despite their unusual reluctance to put a foot on the ball, it was Shelbourne’s route one approach that carved the game’s first opening on 22 minutes.
The hardworking Philly Hughes’ initial cross from the left wasn’t dealt with and Paddy Kavanagh’s pull back was fired narrowly wide by the advancing Kevin Dawson.
Clearly struggling defensively, Derry almost conceded on the half hour. Keeper Doherty first had to show his agility to touch a David Cassidy corner out for another one on the opposite side.
Patrick McEleney was then well-placed on a post to clear Stephen Paisley’s header off the line following another Cassidy delivery and Derry were living on their nerves.
Minutes later, a ball over the top from Paisley had Derry in disarray at the back as Dawson crashed a shot off a post with the ball scrambled away for yet another Shelbourne corner.
However, with 10 minutes remaining to the interval, a switch by the visitors when pushing young Barry McNamee out to the left flank, with McLaughlin moved to the right and Patrick McEleney joining Molloy and Deery in the centre, seemed to give Derry added impetus in attack with McDaid leading the line.
McEleney first relieved the pressure when forcing a save from Bennion, before a surging run resulted in his smashing a left-foot shot off the bar in the 40th minute.
But within four minutes Derry had taken the lead to stun the attendance of almost 1,500. Right-back, Simon Madden, exhibited his attacking quality, skipping between two defenders before his low cross was turned into the net by the alert McLaughlin and Derry started to grow in confidence.
Following the change of ends, Shelbourne came out chasing the game only to be stunned by McLaughlin’s second goal 17 minutes in.
Racing down the line onto Greacen’s ball behind the out of position Sean Byrne, McLaughlin cut in between two defenders before unleashing a left-foot shot which arrowed into the top corner of the net - it was a sensational strike.
And it was all over for the Drumcondra ‘reds’ six minutes later when McDaid got in behind the home defence to reach Molloy’s ball over the top and the striker rounded Bennion before rolling the ball home.
SHELBOURNE - Bennion; Ryan, Boyle, Paisley, S. Byrne; Cassidy (C. Byrne, 83 mins.), Cronin, Dawson, Kavanagh; Hughes, P. Byrne (Gorman, 67 mins.).
DERRY CITY - Doherty; Madden, Greacen, S. McEleney, McCaffrey; P. McEleney, Molloy, Deery (Brolly, 86 mins.), McLaughlin; McNamee (Higgins, 68 mins.); McDaid.
REFEREE - Mr. Anthony Buttimer (Cork).