In a game which began with a whimper and ended with a bang, the Inchicore side found themselves on the losing side in a final for a remarkable seventh time since 1961, their latest efforts to end the hoodoo undone by super-sub Rory Patterson, who scored twice as Derry came back to finally edge it in extra-time.
There was a surprise in the Pat’s starting line-up with the omission of goalkeeper Barry Murphy, despite his having come through a fitness test on an injured ankle. But the man who saved three penalties in the Saints’ quarter-final penalty shoot-out victory over Drogheda Utd was consigned to the bench for the big one, manager Liam Buckley opting instead for Brendan Clarke, the keeper who was brought off ahead of the penalty shoot-out which brought Sligo victory last year but who had kept a clean sheet in the recent win over Cork.
Yesterday’s game was a repeat of the 2006 final when, in the final football match at the old Lansdowne Road stadium, Derry had edged out Pat’s 4-3 in a thriller that went to extra-time. However, in the opening exchanges in wet and blustery conditions in front of a crowd of 16,117 at the new ground, there was scant evidence that we would be in for similar entertainment as the sides cancelled each other out.
Indeed, nearly 15 minutes had elapsed before the first serious effort on goal, Pat’s playmaker Chris Forrester taking a pass from Jake Kelly in a central position outside the Derry box and then using his quick feet to elude Shane McEleney before driving a shot wide of Ger Doherty’s post.
In the 23rd minute, there was misery for Jake Carroll, his cup final ending early following a full-blooded challenge which had already earned him a yellow card. John Russell came into the game as Pat’s continued to dominate possession but Barry Molloy was a magnet for the ball in the heart of the Derry defence.
The goal the game needed, and Pat’s celebrated, finally came seven minutes after the restart, and it was a moment of pure set-piece class from Sean O’Connor, as he curled home a left-footed free from just outside the area to leave Doherty flat-footed.
But, with the match suddenly exploding into life, the lead barely lasted a minute as, rising high in the Pat’s box, Stewart Greacen headed home a Barry McNamee free to put Derry back on level terms.
And things got a whole lot worse for Pat’s in the 67th minute, with keeper Clarke central to the drama.
Having received a back pass from Conor Kenna close to goal, Clarke tried to return the ball to his captain only to knock it straight to Kenny Browne before then crashing into the back of the Derry man. Referee Neil Doyle didn’t hesitate to point to the spot and sub Rory Paterson stepped up to find the corner.
That looked like it might be enough for Derry but, with just four minutes left in normal time, Christy Fagan was in the right place at the right time to finish from close range after Doherty probably thought he had done enough to keep his goal intact with a diving save. But Sean O’Connor reacted quickest to turn the loose ball back across the face of goal and the Pat’s striker did the rest to send yet another FAI cup final into extra-time.
Having rescued the game almost at the death, the psychological advantage should have been with Pat’s but, though they dominated the first 14 minutes of extra-time, they were undone in the final one, super sub Paterson getting on to a loose Kenny Browne header, then keeping his cool to take the ball past Clarke before slotting home.
Then, in the dying moments of the second period, Simon Madden thought he had sealed it for the Candystripes only to have his breakaway goal ruled out for offside. It only delayed the start of the Derry celebrations.
DERRY CITY: Doherty, Greacen (McBride 111), S. McEleney, McCaffrey,Madden, Molloy, Deery, McLaughlin, P McEleney (Patterson 58), McDaid, McNamee (Higgins 80).
ST PAT’S: Clarke, Kenna, Browne, O’ Brien (Flynn 120), Bermingham, Kelly (Faherty 45), Carroll (Russell 23), Chambers, Forrester, O’Connor, Fagan.
Referee: N Doyle.