In a week dominated by concerns over Ireland’s future supply of water, Christy Fagan struck twice for St. Patrick’s Athletic to end a 53-year FAI Cup drought for the Inchicore club against Derry City at the Aviva Stadium, in a game they rarely looked in danger of losing.
After an impressive pyrotechnics display from both sets of supporters prior to kick-off, both teams immediately set about lighting the blue-touch paper here at the Aviva. The game was barely a couple of minutes old when Sean Hoare hauled back Derry #11, Rory Patterson, which earned him an early caution. From the resultant free-kick, Ryan McBride found himself unmarked in the Pats six-yard box but could only stretch to head over the bar, under belated pressure from the Pats defence.
Both teams found it difficult to get into a rhythm in the opening exchanges, not helped by some strict refereeing by Mr. Padraigh Sutton. Both Ryan McBride and Stephen Dooley found themselves in the referee’s notebook as they looked to lay down a marker early on. As always, Derry City were ably led by their captain Barry Molloy who gave an exhibition in the art of man-marking in the first-half, following St Pat’s star man, Keith Fahey, all over the perfect Aviva stadium pitch.
One man who Derry could not control in the first half was Pat’s #9, Christy Fagan, who will be disappointed not to have notched at least once int the first forty-five given the number of chances that came his way. After seven minutes, Fagan saw a snapshot from saved by Derry stopper, Gerard Doherty, after the defence failed to clear a long free-kick into the box. Fagan’s follow-up effort was subsequently flashed Doherty’s left hand post from a tight angle.
After 14 minutes, Fagan found himself in behind the Derry centre half pairing of McBride and Aaron Barry – a feature of the first half – only to be smothered by Doherty with St Pat’s, Conan Byrne putting the rebound wide from the edge of the box.
From a Derry perspective, their attacking threat in the first half consisted almost solely of their experienced #11, Rory Patterson, who foraged well for long periods, without ever really troubling Pat’s keeper, Brendan Clarke. In the 17th minute, after a good interception from Derry’s LB Dean Jarvis on Byrne, Derry broke with Michael Duffy, who got to the byline and centred for Patterson who headed harmlessly over after good pressure from the Pat’s defence.
As the game wore on and despite having their star man Fahey admirably patrolled by Molloy, Pat’s began to assert themselves with the other members of their much-vaunted midfield triumvirate, Killian Brennan and the peerless, Greg Bolger gaining a foothold in midfield. With Pat’s aggressive 4-3-3 formation overpowering the more defensive 4-5-1 being deployed by Derry and Fagan not giving Derry a moment’s peace at the back, a goal looked like only a matter of time however Pat’s struggled to convert.
Marksman Christy Fagan was played through time and again as Derry failed to deal with routine long balls over the top however his final touch was not what it should be and Derry survived. On the occasions when his touch was good, such as in the 39th minute when through on the left side of the penalty area, Fagan again contrived to drag his shot wide of Gerard Doherty’s goal.
Other chances fell to the unusually subdued Forrester and to Keith Fahey for Pat’s before the interval. However, as the teams left the field still scoreless, one could sense the anxiety from the Pat’s end, having experienced so much cup heartbreak in the not-so-recent past.
They needn’t have worried. After a tame opening to the second period, the game burst into life in the 51st minute with Fahey, having broken from the shackles of Barry Molloy, burst down the right and squared for Fagan who calmly controlled and slotted into the far corner, kissing the post on its way past the agonising reach of the Derry defenders on the goal line.
In truth, this was the least that Pat’s deserved who seemed to have got things tactically spot on on the day, looking constantly menacing in attack and rendering the Derry attack and Rory Patterson toothless. While Derry tried in vain to force an opening, Pat’s began to drop deeper and deeper as they looked to absorb anything that Derry had to offer and hit them on the break with Fagan.
Such a tactic worked in the most part as Derry were reduced to pot-shots from Patterson and Fagan was having considerable joy against the Derry back four.
Indeed, Fagan could and should have wrapped the cup final up in the 63rd minute. Defending a free-kick on the edge of their box following a cynical foul from Greg Bolger on Stephen Dooley, Pat’s broke in numbers and a slide-rule pass from Fahey, which split the Derry defence, was latched upon by Fagan who, unforgivably, dragged his left-footed effort wide with only Doherty to beat.
At this time, Fahey was beginning to exert an increasing influence on this game. With Molloy restored to the heart of the Derry defence following the substitution of Ryan McBride, Fahey was left significantly freer and was invaluable for Pats in the last half hour, providing a cool head in the centre of the park, taking the heat out of any Derry attacks and winning some priceless frees to relieve the pressure.
Despite the urgency from their supporters, Derry struggled to formulate any coherent attacks and it took until the 72nd minute for them to force Brendan Clarke to make a meaningful save with substitute, Barry McNamee tamely shooting at the Pats #1 following a good set from Philip Lowry inside the Pats area.
As the game limped toward the last 10 minutes, Derry started to have more of a say in proceedings. In the 79th minute, Rory Patterson found himself unmarked, six yards out from the Derry goal but managed to squander what was arguably Derry’s best chance of the game. This was not to be another famous day for the Candystripes in the capital
Derry pushed on in search of that all-important equaliser, leaving Molloy one-on-one with Fagan at the back, however any attempts to breach the Pats’ rear-guard were fruitless with the impenetrable Kenny Browne and Man-of-The-Match, Greg Bolger sweeping up all before them.
With the game entering the dying embers, a mistake from Molloy allowed Fagan the opportunity to seal the issue. Cooly rounding Doherty in the Derry goal, Fagan finished with aplomb to send the onlooking Pats’ fans into raptures and break the Inchicore side’s 53-year cup hoodoo.
Colm O’Drisceoil, Pundit Arena.