Kelly leaves it late to keep Dundalk's treble bid alive
Derry City 2 Dundalk 3
The local build-up to this FAI Cup tie had a nostalgic flavour, concentrating on the 90th anniversary of Derry City’s first ever competitive game.
Hardened Candystripes fans had another landmark in mind.
Thirty years have passed since Jim McLaughlin’s heroes became the first side to win a domestic treble. No team has succeeded in replicating that feat.
But Dundalk’s ambitions remain alive after a thriller at the Ryan McBride Brandywell that went the distance and could have swung either way before sub Georgie Kelly’s 117th-minute winner, a header that slipped through the grasp of Peter Cherrie. Vinny Perth’s side rode their luck to stay alive after twice giving away the lead, a feature of previous meetings this term with Declan Devine’s spirited and improving side.
Ciaron Harkin struck the bar just before the end of normal time as the holders rocked. But the visitors regrouped to get the job done in dramatic fashion.
Derry will get a chance to make amends when the sides meet again here in the EA Sports Cup final on September 14. That will mean even more to Devine’s men after this painful elimination.
After controlling large parts of the first half, Dundalk deserved the half-time advantage that came courtesy of Daniel Kelly’s looping header.
Derry ’keeper Cherrie found himself in no-man’s land when centre-half Daniel Cleary was able to get forward to send in a cross.
However, the visitors were a bit loose from the restart, as Derry concentrated on targeting their left side. There were openings at both ends of the pitch with Cherrie making amends for his earlier error by producing big stops from Seán Gannon and Michael Duffy.
Derry responded assertively with a series of passes creating the opportunity for Greg Sloggett to slot past Gary Rogers with Dundalk dragged out of shape.
They regained their focus promptly. From the restart, they forced a corner that caused panic in the area with Cleary best placed to send a left-footer beyond Cherrie.
Dundalk initially looking comfortable in the minutes that followed and Sloggett was stretchered off just as the guests were preparing to bring in Patrick McEleney to take them through the final 20 minutes.
For Derry, the fact that Dundalk could afford to leave the Foylesider on the bench highlighted the gulf in resources. They could do with some of the locals that are spread around the country. But Dundalk lost their grip on proceedings and Derry sensed weakness, with another advance down the right resulting in sub Darren McCauley responding quickest in a crowded area to nip the ball home ahead of Rogers.
That paved the way for another half hour and chances were missed at either end as penalties loomed.
The returning Derry striker Junior went down with cramp as Cleary advanced forward and his colleagues were slow to appeal for Dundalk to kick the ball out of play.
Kelly was alert and slipped clear of his marker in the box to guide home a cross and keep Dundalk on course for the coveted domestic clean sweep.
Derry City – Cherrie, Cole, Toal, Gilchrist, Coll; Gillespie (Harkin 82), Bruna (Malone 99); McDonagh, Sloggett (McNamee 69), Junior; McCrudden (McCauley 69)
Dundalk – Rogers, Gannon, Cleary, Hoare, Massey; Shields, Murray (McEleney 70); D Kelly (Mountney 58), McGrath, Duffy; Hoban
Ref – R Harvey (Dublin)