Bohemians prevail in a cracker
FAI CUP FINAL Bohemians 2 Derry City 2:BOHEMIANS COMPLETED their coveted double yesterday at the RDS where they lifted the Ford FAI Cup and gave their fans further cause for celebration on what was a bitterly cold afternoon.
Their claim to be the country's best side this year is hard to quibble with, but the penalty shoot-out defeat must still have tasted just a little bitter to Derry City who had been fractionally the better side and might have bagged their second trophy this season had it not been for a couple of critical refereeing decisions.
It was quite a final considering the conditions and ultimately, after coming out on the right side of two big penalty calls by referee Anthony Buttimer during normal time, Bohemians produced further evidence of the character that severed them so well in the league this season by coolly becoming the first side to win this trophy on spot kicks.
With what will almost certainly be his last kick of a ball for the Dalymount outfit, Mindaugas Kalonas converted to clinch the cup after Kevin Deery and Ruaidhri O'Higgins had seen their efforts for the northerners saved by Brian Murphy. Killian Brennan, Stephen O'Donnell and Glen Cronin had already found the net for the Dubliners before Mark Rossiter missed the target while Mark Farren and Kevin McHugh had scored Derry's opening two.
As they reflect on the game this morning, though, City fans are likely to focus less on shoot-out misses by midfield heroes than Buttimer's penalty calls during the game itself. Less than three minutes in, their side looked to have a cast-iron claim when Sammy Morrow was bundled over in the box by Owen Heary but nothing was given. And things got much worse after they had taken the lead with Morrow penalised for a handball that could scarcely have been construed as intentional.
Still, whatever the circumstances, Pat Fenlon's men went on to complete their double and the 10,281 spectators who braved the cold were rewarded with an exciting game of football between two sides determined to attack.
With a strong and blustery wind at their backs, Derry had had the better of the opening half but after failing to win that penalty in the first few minutes, they found clear-cut chances difficult enough to carve out, although Murphy did do well on a couple of occasions to keep Farren at bay.
The referee must have brought some relief to City players and fans when he decided that Heary had gone down outside rather than inside the box at the other end while being pursued by Clive Delaney but, as it turned out, television replays suggested there had been little if any contact made. In any case, Killian Brennan nonchalantly chipped over the wall from the resulting free kick but while Ger Doherty looked on helplessly, the ball clipped the left hand end of the crossbar and flew behind.
Much of the Bohemians build-up play was, given the conditions, impressively neat but they found it consistently hard to breakthrough the last line of the City defence and Doherty, in truth, didn't have a great deal to do prior to picking the ball of his net in the 64th minute.
Derry, on the other hand, moved the ball with a little more purpose through midfield with Kevin Deery and Barry Molloy both impressive in the centre and Gareth McGlynn particularly good out wide down the right.
It was the wide midfielder who created a couple of City's better chances early on with Murphy reacting smartly to push the best of them, a Farren header from close range, just over.
However, when McGlynn fed the ball low to Farren just short of an hour in, Gary Deegan took his trailing leg and from the resulting free Morrow found the top right corner with Brennan and Glen Crowe splitting as the shot approached the wall.
Pat Fenlon reacted immediately by replacing Neale Fenn with Kalonas whose arrival sparked a significant increase in the tempo of Bohemians' play.
Within six minutes they were level with the Lithuanian international winning a corner that Jason Byrne took and he helped onto the post before Glen Crowe pounced to turn it firmly home from eight yards.
The Dubliners then took the lead through Byrne who beat Doherty with a fine spot-kick although quite how Morrow could have been adjudged to have deliberately handled was a little bewildering.
To his credit, having picked himself up, Morrow went down the other end and scored again. Niall McGinn, who improved steadily as the afternoon wore on and became a really major influence after McGlynn was replaced, this time did the hard work out on the left before crossing low for the striker to sidefoot home from the edge of the six yard box.
As the celebrations finally died down, there was a sense that perhaps Derry might have recovered their early momentum. In fact, there was almost nothing to separate the sides for the rest of the afternoon with each of them giving as good as they got in a remarkably open contest.
Kalonas threatened to restore the lead on a couple of occasions but McGinn had one or two opportunities at the other end too and both forced outstanding saves from their respective goalkeepers at some point. The Lithuanian looked a certainty close to the end of the first period of extra time and McGinn looked set to seal victory at the death for City 15 minutes later but Doherty and Murphy produced spectacular stops to keep things rumbling on towards sudden death.
That seemed an unsatisfactory way for such a fine encounter to be resolved but City must still have fancied their chances having been successful in such circumstances more than once at earlier stages of the competition. Murphy continued to make his rather brilliant presence felt, though, before Kalonas eventually stepped up to calmly steal the show.
BOHEMIANS:Murphy; O Heary, Oman, Burns, Rossiter; Byrne (McGill, 76 mins), O'Donnell, Deegan (Cronin, 106 mins), Brennan; Fenn (Kalonas, 62 mins); Crowe.
DERRY CITY:Doherty; McCallion, Hutton, Delaney, Gray; McGlynn (Stuart, 91 mins), Deery, Molloy (Higgins, 91 mins), McGinn; Morrow (McHugh, 105 mins), Farren.
Referee:A Buttimer (Cork).