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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Daniel McDonnell Twitter Email

Derry City claim 2022 FAI Cup with classy victory over Shelbourne

Ronan Boyce of Derry City celebrates his side's third goal

The dying minutes of this fixture were a reflection of a record breaking afternoon to remember for Derry City fans and a miserable one for all involved with Shelbourne.

With Candystripes boss Ruaidhri Higgins making substitutions to allow his victorious players enjoy an ovation and squad members to get on the pitch, the only headline grabbing developments from a Shelbourne perspective was the sight of fans being ejected after squabbles with Gardai and security arising from the chucking of flares towards the pitch and scraps between Reds followers in the aftermath.

It was an unfortunate flashpoint after a seriously one sided fixture which will definitely be remembered as such after sub Jordan McEneff’s late spot kick ensured a four goal winning margin, the biggest in the history of the competition.

A game with a reputation for becoming a war of attrition ended up becoming an emphatic show of Derry City strength, and a major step forward in the development of Higgins’ side.

League matches between the teams this year were tight, but this encounter reflected the 25 point difference in the final standings.

Damien Duff and his staff held a mini debrief on the pitch after the final whistle before heading inside to try and pick up the pieces.

With 9 of the 12 previous finals at the Aviva Stadium going to extra-time, the build-up to this game was peppered with predictions that more of the same was imminent, with cagey the word of choice.

Inside a minute, however, there were already signs this was going to be different with Jamie McGonigle breaking through to force a stop from Brendan Clarke as the Shels defence got themselves into a bit of a muddle.

This was a sign of what was to come. While the game fell into the pattern that was anticipated, with Derry having a lot of the ball and Shels content enough to pick their moments for pressing, it all hinged on Damien Duff’s team being on point with the execution of their defensive tasks.

This didn’t prove to be the case. Shane Farrell, a pre-match injury doubt, was selected at left wing back where he was up against Ryan Graydon, the powerful Derry City winger signed midway through the season from Longford Town. The late bloomer was a surprise selection, but proved to be a significant player in proceedings, offering width on his side of the pitch to rival Michael Duffy’s presence on the other side.

Patrick McEleney was fielded in a deep midfield role here and had already threatened with a free kick that was pushed away before his quarterback like passing skills caught Farrell in a spin, his long diagonal pass controlled expertly by Graydon after it dropped over the head of the backtracking Shels man. The subsequent cross was met on the run by McGonigle who steered the ball into the bottom corner.

Shels were in catch-up mode, a position which wouldn’t suit their strengths at this stage of their evolution. Gavin Molloy did threaten from a free kick in the immediate aftermath, with the young midfielder subsequently relocated to left wing back with Farrell removed from Graydon duty. This weakened Shels defensively in the engine room and that became apparent in the second goal with left full Cameron McJannet able to advance forward and run away from Farrell before feeding Duffy and continuing his run into the box.

When Duffy’s delivery was cut out by Shane Griffin, McJannet responded quicker than a posse of white shirts to fire home. It felt like game over before the interval, and it proved to be case for Farrell, a fan favourite and fine talent, who will have learned a lot from this experience.

Brian McManus was his replacement, and there was a mini flurry of activity in the Derry half where he was involved. Alas, that was short lived. With central striker Sean Boyd suffering a tough day after a bright start, Shels had no platform to build attacks and their third goal came from a corner that followed an attempted foray breaking down.

Again, though, it was the basics that killed Duff’s charges with McJannet unmarked and free to steer the ball over the line with his thigh. Any hopes of a comeback were now dead and buried. The increasingly rampant Michael Duffy smacked the woodwork after a brilliant run as the Shels bench were still trying to process how to respond.

But there was no way back and the final blow was inflicted at the death when McEneff, who enjoyed an unsuccessful stint at Shels earlier in the season, came off the bench to win a penalty that he was allowed to convert to write this final’s place into the history books.

Derry City: Maher, Boyce, Connolly, S McEleney (Coll 82), McJannet; Dummigan, P McEleney; Graydon (Thomson 82), Patching (McEneff 89), Duffy (Kavanagh 89); McGonigle (Akintunde 75)

Shelbourne: Clarke, Negru, Byrne, Griffin; Wilson, Dervin (Ledwidge 64) Molloy (Coyle 71), Lunney, Farrell (McManus 45); Moylan; Boyd

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