Three times they fell adrift in yesterday’s pulsating FAI Cup final and three times they reeled St Patrick’s Athletic back in before sprinting past them to the tape thanks to an own goal from the unfortunate Stephen Brennan.
Kenny’s decision to hold onto the reins at City after his switch to Dunfermline was criticised in many quarters leading up to yesterday’s match, but the Dubliner preferred to turn the spotlight onto the City players in the aftermath of their success.
“It’s tremendous for any team to be able to come from behind three times and win. The players deserve great credit. It was a tremendous final. These games are normally won 1-0 or something like that but it was a classic final.
“It shows so much self-belief that they were able to do that. We won the League Cup final against Shels with nine men, too. That’s an indication of the determination and spirit in that Derry dressing room.”
Easy as it is to feel sorry for St Pat’s, it would be churlish not to applaud Derry on their achievement, especially after being pipped to the title by Cork City and Shelbourne in the last two seasons.
Almost 10,000 supporters followed them to Dublin for this game, John Hume and Martin McGuinness among them, and this success was dedicated to the travelling army that has followed them through 54 games and five countries in the course of the season.
“I’m delighted for the fans,” said Kenny. “They have been fantastic for us all season and you saw what it meant to them when the final whistle went there today. They deserve every bit of success.”
Kenny’s feelings towards the Brandywell faithful have been reciprocated even since his departure with one flag on view yesterday declaring: “Two seasons, a lifetime of memories” in tribute to Kenny’s time at the club.
“It’s absolutely phenomenal for him,” said captain Peter Hutton. “We totally respected his decision to move on. He’s a young ambitious manager and he decided that the time was right for him to move on and I’m delighted we were able to send him off with a bit of silverware.”
Though the skipper was to blame for the penalty that saw Pats go 2-1 in front, he redeemed himself with Derry’s third and prevented City from falling 3-1 behind with 12 minutes of normal time to go with a last-ditch tackle on Trevor Molloy.
Named man of the match, the 33-year old echoed his manager in lauding the spirit shown by his teammates throughout an afternoon that stretched them to their limits both physically and emotionally.
“It’s absolutely unbelievable. To win it after a game like that is fantastic but I feel for the Pat’s lads. They were such terrible conditions to play the game in but someone had to win and I’m just glad it was us.
“I think it’s deserving that we finish the season we’ve had on that sort of high. Coming back three times like we did shows the kind of resilience that we have in this side.”
For Pat’s, the fact that they were crucial components in a memorable contest will be of little consolation as they reflect on an afternoon that saw the FAI Cup, and European and Setanta Sports Cup qualification all snatched from their fingers, not once or twice, but three times.
“We spoke about the conditions before the game and I’m sure it was a great game to watch for neutrals despite the weather but we gave goals away from set-pieces three times and we have to be disappointed with that,” said manager John McDonnell.
“I couldn’t have asked for more from my players. Derry City showed they had that little bit extra in terms of their squad by bringing on some effective players towards the end but it’s devastating for our lads.”