THE TIMING of Derry City’s EA Sports Cup victory on Sunday was perfect in every way.
In fact, many would say the 11th League Cup triumph in the club’s history was simply meant to be!
The romantically inclined and neutral football supporters across the country will no doubt have been hoping Cobh Ramblers could clinch a fairytale win in the first national senior final in their 96 yearhistory.
And the Co. Cork men did an honourable job in making it an entertaining decider as they put it up to their Premier Division opposition until their legs grew heavy and Derry turned the screw in the second half.
The Cup was secured just three days after the decision to rename the Brandywell Stadium in honour of Ryan McBride, who died suddenly just 18 months ago, and memories of the former skipper were fresh in the mind of Kenny Shiels who dedicated the win to the Brandywell lad. It was ‘Ryan McBride’s day’, he said afterwards.
Gerard Doherty had visited Ryan’s grave on the morning of the final and poignantly offered up the cup win in his name and in the name of the late, Mark Farren who died in February 2016, aged just 33, after a long battle with a brain tumour.
The club has been through so much turmoil since the tragic loss of the Greencastle man and so it was befitting the occasion that Doherty raised aloft the trophy in the ‘Mark Farren Stand’ and saluted his former teammates who are so sadly missed.
Aside from the obvious emotions attached to the day as the six-year wait for silverware came to an end, the victory arrived at the perfect time in a so-far frustrating season for supporters.
It offered a silver lining for Shiels and his troops after a league campaign which has been in freefall of late. And just three days before a quarter-final against an in-form Bohemians side which could yet define the season.
Derry were massive favourites for the Cup Final on Sunday, particularly given home advantage. Some say the decision to host it at Brandywell took the shine off the showpiece, claiming it should be a neutral venue but it was the luck of the draw and a decision which proved apt in the end for a place which holds many fond memories for the families of both Ryan and Mark.
Shiels will be hoping for another packed house tomorrow night as they bid to make it through to a second cup final. They’re potentially just two home games from another big day out at the Aviva Stadium on November 4th and they’ll need the help of the Brandywell support which came out in their numbers on Sunday afternoon.
“It’s going to lift them if they want to play in another final,” said Shiels. “The semi-final, whoever plays Cork, that will be a fantastic atmosphere, very similar to today. If we could win on Wednesday, which will be a difficult, then we’re going to get another environment like tonight.
“That’s the incentive and motivation for our players. We have another chance to play a big game here. We’re up against it on Wednesday night but we’ll give eveyrthing we have. If we give everything we have and lose then fair dos.”
The players showed a grit and determination on Sunday which has been lacking for much of the season as they rose to the occasion. Ronan Hale gave the Candy Stripes a 23rd minute lead. However, the First Division club stunned the attendance when getting back on terms two minutes later through Christopher Hull who scored that memorable winning goal in the giant killing of Dundalk in the semi-finals.
However, City stepped it up after the break and Darren Cole restored their lead with an emphatic header before Aaron McEneff put the game to bed from the penalty spot with just under 20 minutes remaining.
Cobh were gifted a chance to get back in the contest with two minutes remaining from the penalty spot but Doherty saved from Shane O’Connor to ensure Derry’s a first trophy since the FAI Cup of 2012.