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Eight-man Drogheda earn unlikely draw with Derry

An entertaining game ended all square at United Park this evening.

Drogheda United's Gary O'Neill with Ryan McBride of Derry City.
Drogheda United's Gary O'Neill with Ryan McBride of Derry City.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Drogheda 2-2 Derry City

DAMIEN RICHARDSON SPOKE of the ‘screaming uncertainty’ and the ‘heart pounding moments of tension’ that accompanies the FAI Cup in his programme notes ahead of Derry City’s visit to United Park in the FAI Cup.

This encounter certainly lived up to Richardson’s billing and will surely go down in history as one of Rico’s more memorable cup encounters in his long and chequered past with the competition.

Drogheda United will travel to the Brandywell on Tuesday evening wondering quite how they managed to extend this tie beyond tonight. They fell behind after just 13 minutes before going a man down after just half an hour. Two further sendings off followed but this 2-2 draw keeps last year’s finalists in the mix, for the time being at least.

Both safe and at ease in the SSE Airtricity League’s midtable, this was as crucial a match as either side would face as the season begins to wind to a conclusion. Derry’s approach to this one was made clear for all to see as Peter Hutton rang the changes in Monday’s heavy defeat to Dundalk and Oriel Park.

Subsequent criticism followed from some quarters, namely Dundalk’s title rivals, but Hutton’s decision to prioritise the FAI Cup would have been fully justified, if Derry saw off their opponents tonight.

As it was, the goals in this four-goal thriller were shared even if the numerical advantage was very much with Derry by the end.

The visitors, who made nine changes from their previous game, dominated early on as first Michael Duffy and then Rory Patterson hit the post. It was little surprise when shortly thereafter, they hit the front. A short corner was worked to Barry McNamee. He played in Patrick McEleney, whose cross was skewed clear by Mick Daly, only to fall to centre-half Ryan McBride. He shot low and accurate past Micheal Schlingermann into the net for 1-0.

10 minutes later though, Drogheda were level. Gavan Holohan’s corner from the right went all the way to the back post. There, Alan McNally’s header was blocked but the centre-half persevered to force it over the line from close range.

On 34 minutes, an innocuous ball forward led to the game’s first big talking point. Chasing the ball down, Drogheda’s Peter McGlynn lunged in on Derry left-back Dean Jarvis. Referee Derek Tomney didn’t hesitate to brandish red, leaving the Drogs with just 10 men for the remainder of the game. Soon, that would become nine.

Needless to say, referee Derek Tomney won’t be given any sort of hospitable welcome in Drogheda again anytime soon. Two minutes after the restart, Shane Grimes was shown a straight red after seeming to show some verbal dissent to the referee.

Remarkably, two minutes after that, another Holohan set piece was flicked in by midfielder Mick Daly to put Drogheda into the lead. Two men short or not, they now had something to hold onto.

And they very nearly secured a remarkable win. Despite not offering much goal threat from that point, they defended resolutely and almost saw it through. A combination of Micheal Schlingermann saves and awry finishing from Rory Patterson meant Derry almost didn’t get back into this game.

However, the equaliser eventually came when Philip Lowry slammed the ball home from inside the area with six minutes to go. There was still time for Holohan to pick up a second yellow card just as the match entered injury time, leaving Drogheda down to eight.

But, somehow, they remain in the competition — it was uncertain stuff, and full of heart-pounding moments, just like Rico likes it.

Meanwhile, for Derry, Hutton’s decision to rest his players didn’t reap the required dividends. Progress from Tuesday’s replay is a must.

DROGHEDA UNITED: Micheal Schlingermann, Mick Daly, Alan McNally, Daire Doyle, Stephen Maher (Paul Crowley, 72), Gavan Holohan, Gary O’Neill (Garreth Brady, 72), Ciaran McGuigan, Carl Walshe, Peter McGlynn, Shane Grimes.

Substitutes: Dylan Connolly, Paul Andrews, Declan O’Brien, Adam Wixted.

DERRY CITY: Gerard Doherty, Dean Jarvis (Josh Tracey, 80), Barry Molloy, Ryan McBride, Barry McNamee, Patrick McEleney, Rory Patterson, Michael Duffy, Philip Lowry, Stephen Dooley (Mark Timlin, 80), Aaron Barry.

Substitutes: Shane McEleney, Sean Houston, Ciaran Gallagher, Ryan Curran, Aaron Barry.

REFEREE: Derek Tomney

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