Cool Coughlan keeps his head
Cork City centre-back Derek Coughlan headed in just 18 minutes into the Eircom League match at Turner's Cross yesterday to help elevate Cork into third place in the table.
This was Derry City's first defeat in 12 matches, but they could have no complaints after Cork had dominated a game that was contested with vigour and determination and lacked only goals in providing generous entertainment on a bitterly cold afternoon.
Derry finished the game with only 10 men after their centre-back Darren Kelly was sent off for a second bookable offence, but the dismissal came in the 90th minute and was too late to influence the trend.
Indeed the trend for the closing 10 minutes was firmly in Derry's favour as Cork withdrew forward Noel Hartigan to further bolster their big defence in face of Derry's rising challenge.
Yet the growing threat from Derry owed as much to Cork's nervousness as it did to any particular inspiration from the visitors. For Cork's confidence must have been shaken by their repeated failures to capitalise upon a superiority that was scarcely challenged for all but the closing quarter.
Cork were hindered, however, by poor passing and by inaccurate finishing. They regularly worked promising openings but always contrived to miss the target, and nobody was more guilty in this respect than their top player, Ollie Cahill.
He had an outstanding game otherwise, and led full back Paddy McLoughlin a merry dance on Cork's left wing. Right from the opening whistle he demonstrated his ability to be a huge influence, and it was no accident that Cork's only goal should come from his accurate corner-kick which Coughlan headed into the net.
Cork were always more energetic in their play than Derry, and their caution late in the game was afterwards explained by manager Liam Murphy.
"This was a huge result for us," he said. "We were very much aware that defeat in this match would effectively mark the end of our season because it would have left us eight points behind Shels with 10 matches left."
Murphy paid tribute to his counterpart Kevin Mahon. "Fair play to Derry, they had three centre-forwards on the pitch in the closing 10 minutes. Their attitude helped make it an entertaining match and it was a welcome change when so many teams come to our ground with just one centre-forward and five players across the middle of the pitch in an effort to stop us from playing."
It may be too soon to expect Cork's young team to overtake the league leaders and win the championship, but Murphy said: "We have a good, hard-working side who battle hard for one another. We didn't win any of our last three games and it was a tribute to the players the way they came back today and win three important points for us."
CORK CITY: Devine; Carey, Coughlan, Napier, Horgan; Bennett, Buckley, O'Grady, Cahill; O'Brien (Mulligan 81), Hartigan.
DERRY CITY: Payne; McLoughlin (Hughes 73), E McCallion, Kelly, Hargan; McGlynn, Doherty, T McCallion, Moran (Parkhouse 81); Beckett, Coyle.
Referee: D O'Hanlon (Carrick-on-Suir).