ROY KEANE was among the crowd as Derry City's promising new boys became the delivery men at Turner's Cross on Saturday.
No longer can these Premier Division freshers use inexperience as an excuse for failure. They're graduates now and, with a major trophy behind them and six championship-deciding league games ahead, Derry could become the first team to win the Premier League in their first season back in the top flight.
"From where we have come from in such a short period of time to where we are is remarkable," said manager Stephen Kenny. "We have three trophies in the cabinet -- the First Division, the League Cup and the 'A' Championship -- but there is a bigger prize and we have to get focused now and try to see if we can win our remaining matches."
Should they show the same resourcefulness as they did on Saturday, they have a real chance. Having started so poorly -- with their passing game almost invalidated by the enforced relocation of four players into unfamiliar positions -- Kenny reorganised his team from a 4-4-2 formation to the more fluid 4-3-3 shape on 20 minutes and watched the immediate benefits.
While most Irish teams when faced with the demands of such a tactical adjustment would struggle, Derry are cut from a different cloth and the freedom granted by their new system helped them gain in assurance before eventually, their quality told.
After Derry went from having two men in the middle of the park to three, Gareth McGlynn suddenly got time on the ball.
There was also a passion and desire about their performance which showed that this much-maligned competition meant something special to them.
Outplayed initially, they came to life after Graham Cummins' low shot hit an upright in the 26th minute.
Captain Kevin Deery was immense in midfield and Eamon Zayed, having missed a couple of first-half chances, held his nerve to convert the winning penalty on 65 minutes.
It looked more like ball-to-hand than a deliberate handball when Zayed's shot was blocked by Gavin Kavanagh's hand, but referee Paul Tuite had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, and Zayed made no mistake.
Cork -- McNulty; Horgan (Morrisey 84), Kavanagh, Spillane, Murphy; Turner (Sullivan 75), Morrissey, Duggan, O'Brien (Escude-Candau 75); Cummins, O'Neill.
Derry -- Doherty; Molloy, McBride, Greacen, Friars; McGlynn, Deery, Higgins; Zayed, McDaid (P McEleney 54), McLaughlin.
Ref -- P Tuite (Dublin)