Brunton strike puts Derry out
Deprived of the double on the final day of the season last May, Derry City's 1997/8 season was ended in the cold of winter at the Brandywell last night. Cork City frustrated and outwitted them before progressing, for the second time in succession during this cup run, on the strength of a solitary own goal. This time it was Robbie Brunton who was the bearer of gifts to the southerners.
"I don't think he finished it as well as Donal Broughan," beamed Dave Barry, who'll doubtless be weighing up the blunder potential of the Sligo Rovers back four before Nicky Reid's side travel to Turner's cross for the quarter-finals in early March.
The Cork boss paid tribute to all of his players, but particularly to the younger men who, he thought, had felt the weight of expectancy at Turners Cross on Sunday. "We've come along since last year and everyone thinks that no matter who comes to Cork, we should beat them now," said Barry. "That's sometimes difficult for some of those lads and I thought they did very well tonight. They may have had the bulk of possession, but I thought we had the better of the chances."
To his credit, Felix Healy accepted that his side had deserved no more than they got from a scrappy game. "It's been like that all year," he conceded, "us dominating matches without ever looking like we were going to score."
Sure enough, it had been the home side who had taken control of the proceedings from early on. Pushing forward in numbers from midfield and creating chances early on that Liam Coyle or Ryan Coyle might have made more of.
Against the run of play, though, it was Cork who took the lead, Noel Hartigan setting his side on the route to goal, despite a sweeping challenge by Eamonn Doherty which took the legs from under the tall striker.
John Caulfield took up the running down the left-hand side and, after the 33-year-old striker had skipped over Paul Curran's challenge, he whipped in a low cross which Robbie Brunton, from the midst of four-man group in which Colin O'Brien was the only Corkman, was unfortunate enough to turn in just short of the right-hand post.
Having been well on top for 40 minutes of the first half, Derry suddenly found themselves behind just short of the break and when the game restarted, Healy had abandoned his gamble of playing Craig Taggart alongside Liam Coyle, returning him to the centre of the field where he immediately began to make more of an impact.
The man to push forward in his place was Sean Hargan who, within five minutes, met Taggart's long free out of midfield with a header from six yards that should have hit the back of the Cork net.
With Ryan Coyle, in for the injured Gary Beckett, now out wide, the home side looked a good deal more balanced, but the Cork defence, as they had on Sunday, defended well from deep and the constant rain made the locals' attempts to get in behind them all the more tricky.
Derry's most promising route to goal looked to be to get the ball high over the opposing back four. But even with Mooney looking decidedly uneasy with the wet ball, the home side scarcely ever looked like scoring. That was until the closing stages, when the arrival of local teenager Floyd Gilmour heralded the apportioning of a four-man strike force and, predictably, the exertion of a good deal more pressure.
The Candystripes' determination to get forward twice came close to undoing them, but the strategy almost paid off just before Gilmour entered the fray when James Keddy played a short ball square to Ryan Coyle who seemed set to blast home from 10 yards out. Caulfield, though, was there inside his own box to get a foot in. After that, Gilmour's long drive, which Mooney did well to push wide, was as close as the home side came to saving the game, or their season.
Derry City: O'Dowd; Doherty, Curran, Dykes, Brunton; Hargan, Hegarty, R Coyle, Keddy; Taggart, L Coyle. Subs: Gilmour for Doherty (74 mins), Gallagher for Brunton (83 mins).
Cork City: Mooney; Napier, Coughlin, Daly, Cronin; O'Brien, Flanagan, Freyne, Cahill; Hartigan, Caulfield. Subs: Kabia for Caulfield (88 mins). Referee: J Feighery (Dublin).