Drogheda Win 3-2 on aggregate
A dramatic 94th minute winner sealed Drogheda United’s place in the semi-final of the Setanta Cup at the expense of Derry City.
Ten men Derry took the lead on the hour mark through Michael Rafter only for Derek Prendergast to level and super sub Ryan Brennan to win it at the death to set up a tantalising encounter with Sligo Rovers.
Mick Cooke made several changes to the Drogheda side that lost to St. Pat’s on Friday with Graham Rusk, David Cassidy, Brian Gannon and Phillip Hand coming into the starting eleven.
As for Derry, Michael Devine made two alterations from the defeat to Sligo with Michael Rafter and Kevin Deery replacing Marc Griffin and Thomas Crawley.
Baltic conditions had threatened the game and heavy snow fall continued throughout with both sides struggling to get a foothold early on.
Drogheda had thought they took the lead when Cassidy released Gavin Brennan who cut inside onto his left but his shot was parried by Ger Doherty and Simon Madden completed the clearance on the goal line.
Derry responded quickly and with twenty minutes played Patrick McEleney unleashed a terrific long range effort that was destined for the top corner before Sava intervened.
Penalty shouts either side were waived away before a lightning quick Drogheda counter attack involving Gary O’Neill and Gavin Brennan resulted in a Gannon cross that was diverted wide before Rusk could capitalise at the back post.
Referee Neil Doyle did eventually point to the spot before the interval as a square pass from Barry Molloy across his own box was intercepted by O’Neill who was bundled over by Ryan McBride. The Dubliner dusted himself down but his spot kick was easily saved by recent Northern Ireland call-up Doherty.
The major talking point of the game occurred three minutes into the second half as McBride was shown a straight red card for a high, reckless challenge on O’Neill who, after being taken off on a stretcher, was replaced by Declan O’Brien.
Soon after Gavin Brennan then tried his best Gareth Bale impression with a thirty yard effort that was tipped over by the impressive Doherty.
Despite the man advantage, it was Derry who took a surprise lead. A corner kick fell to Gannon who missed his clearance and left Rafter with the simple task of beating Sava.
United delivered the perfect response as within three minutes they levelled. A deep cross from Gavin Brennan was volleyed home sweetly by captain Prendergast to leave the game on a knife edge.
Intense Drogheda pressure followed with Gavin Brennan and Hand combining to cause havoc in the Derry penalty area.
It appeared as though Drogheda had missed the last chance in normal time when a Ryan Brennan cut back dropped to Gavin Brennan but his volley was fired well over the bar.
But there was still time for a twist in the tale, a deep Hand cross from the left was knocked on by O’Brien whose header clipped the inside of the post and Ryan Brennan was the first to react to knock the ball into the net and Drogheda into the semi-final.
Drogheda United Team: Gabriel Sava, Brian Gannon, Derek Prendergast, Alan Byrne, Phillip Hand, Graham Rusk (Pater Hynes 80’), Michael Daly (Ryan Brennan 73’), Paul O’Conor, David Cassidy, Gavin Brennan, Gary O’Neill (Declan O’Brien 52’)
Substitutes Not Used: Michael Schlingermann, Dean Gaynor, Stephen Quigley, Jason Marks.
Derry City Team: Gerard Doherty, Shane McEleney, Ryan McBride, Patrick McEleney (Marc Griffin 45’), Simon Madden, Barry Molloy, Barry McNamee, Ruaidhri Higgins, Kevin Deery, Michael Rafter (Ryan Curran 70’) Rory Patterson.
Substitutes Not Used: Conal Kelly, Tony McNamee, James Gallagher, Michael Duffy, Thomas Crawley.
Drogheda Brian Gannon
Derry Shane McEleney, Barry Molloy
Red card: Derry Ryan McBride
Referee: Neil Doyle
Man of the Match: Gavin Brennan