Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Derry left to Cech out Morris

Glentoran keeper Elliot Morris will be as battered and bruised as Petr Cech this morning after repelling a Derry City onslaught at the Oval.

The ball was pinged at him from every angle but in the end he was beaten only by Conor Sammon from the penalty spot and that was good enough to help his side to an improbable point. These two sides have developed a nasty habit of knocking each other out of this competition over the past couple of years.

Twelve months ago Derry came out on top in east Belfast only for the Glens to storm the Brandywell.

Net result, both sides went out early.

Again. Was there anyone who was the remotest bit surprised when Glentoran, Linfield and Derry City ended up grouped together for the third year in a row? Not surprised, maybe, but certainly not displeased either as the fans of these three sides, at any rate, have come to love these - dare we say - annual encounters.

Derry brought roughly 1,000 with them to the Oval last night,

that's significantly more than they take with them on their travels to anywhere else in Ireland, barring Finn Park.

The managers don't take the games quite as seriously as the supporters, judging at least by the teamsheets.

Glentoran made seven changes from Saturday's Big Two game while Stephen Kenny, too, took the opportunity to add a couple of unfamiliar names to his bench.

If that is understandable, to a certain degree with bigger fish to fry, it also gives the managers something of a handy get-out clause when things go pear-shaped.

To be fair to Derry, they didn't look weakened in any real sense as they tore at Glentoran from the start.

When their fans taunted the Glens support: "You're supposed to be at home," it was because they were making all the noise but in fact it was City who did look much the more comfortable on the pitch.

Derry's game at Windsor Park last month upped the ante a little for these games but that was no bad thing really.

For vastly different reasons Derry's two matches in Belfast this year have been hugely entertaining and even if they haven't managed to progress further than the first stage of this competition - so far - it is they and their fans who have elevated it from the danger of being a series of mid-season friendlies.

Alan McDonald can't fail to have been impressed by what the Kenny factor has already done to Derry City this season. City may have won here 1-0 last season under Pat Fenlon but the performance that evening was not a patch on last night when they could - and should - have won by the proverbial bucketful. The swagger has returned to their football and they have a sense of confidence which had steadily drained away during Fenlon's brief stint in charge.

It's such a shame that we now have to wait until the autumn for the second round of matches - not least for Derry's return against Linfield on home territory which has the makings of being one of the matches of the year.

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