Derry City boss Declan Devine praises Jamie McDonagh's mental strength
DECLAN DEVINE refused to watch Jamie McDonagh's late penalty against Cork City on Friday night but praised the winger's character and mental strength as he redeemed himself with an 89th minute goal which cemented a crucial victory.
The Derry City boss opted to look into the Mark Farren Stand with his back to the action as McDonagh stepped up to take an 80th minute spot-kick and only realised the outcome as fans buried their head in their hands when Cork keeper, Mark McNulty guessed correctly to keep the visitors in the game.
"I haven't seen it yet," said Devine of the penalty afterwards. "I was looking at the crowd for their reaction and obviously the crowd's reaction wasn't the reaction I wanted to see," he smiled. "I think the next penalty we get I'll definitely watch it because I didn't like seeing those sad faces when I was facing the Mark Farren Stand."
It's been an eventful season so far for Northern Ireland U21 international, McDonagh as he transforms himself from villain to hero for the Brandywell club. He's served two lengthy suspensions already this season for incidents at Shamrock Rovers and Finn Harps which has seen him miss EIGHT of the club's 14 matches in all competitions. He returned from his second ban in Waterford on Easter Monday and produced a terrific display before conceding a stoppage time penalty for the Blues' equaliser.
And the winger, who was handed the man of the match award against Cork, was again at the centre of the action. He provided a superb assist from a free-kick for Eoin Toal's opener but his penalty with 10 minutes to go was saved by McNulty.
McDonagh then found redemption as City pressed for a second and decisive goal in the final stages as he found the back of the net with a cracking strike into the left corner of the Cork net.
City boss Devine was delighted with his contribution and put his reaction to the penalty miss down to his character and self-belief.
"He made amends and that's down to character and mental strength," said Devine. "He's a class act. You only have to look at his delivery for the first goal. His crossing is sensational. To show that character and quality for the second goal is testimony to Jamie. The one thing people can't say about Jamie is that he lacks character because he's got the self-belief and drive to keep coming back."
Overall it an impressive display from Devine's troops who got back on the winning trail after a defeat to Shamrock Rovers and a draw against Waterford at the RSC over the previous seven days.
"Technically I think we're very good on the ball and physically we're in a very good place, we're extremely fit. If teams want to have a fight we can have a fight. If teams want to play a game of football we can play a game of football.
"But the pleasing thing for me is that, mentally, our players come again. They're very strong individually. Their desire to succeed for this club is something I'm very proud of and long may it continue.
"I'm ecstatic and extremely proud of the effort and the mental strength of our players on the back of a sucker punch on Monday and travelling up the road."
Cork had boasted a formidable record against Derry having gone into the game unbeaten in their last 12 meetings against the Candy Stripes. Derry's last win was on March 2016. However, given Cork's poor run of form this season, having gone seven games without a win, the home side went into the match as favourites and Devine was pleased with how his players coped with the expectation levels.
"The sense of expectation was there tonight for everyone to feel and for such a young bunch they were magnificent. They started the game a wee bit slow and it took us 10 or 15 minutes to get going but once we started getting into our stride and passing the ball with intensity and the running capabilities of the team, we were very much on the front foot and I thought we could've won by a bigger margin.
"Our guys are giving this club everything. It's a team I'm extremely proud of and I hope the supporters are. Our players are extremely proud of our fans. At 1-0 Cork are coming back into the game and the fans gave us another lift,
"It was the same in Waterford on Monday with 10 minutes to go we came again because our fitness levels are good, our determination levels are good and we take care with the ball.
"I'm ecstatic we own the game but we get our heads back down and make sure we're ready for Monday."