Belfast Telegraph

Devine tips Derry to bounce back from final heartbreak

Derry City 2 Dundalk 2 AET, Dundalk win 6-5 on penalties

Down and out: Derry’s players show their disappointment as Dundalk celebrate with the EA Sports Cup
Down and out: Derry’s players show their disappointment as Dundalk celebrate with the EA Sports Cup
Down and out: Derry’s players show their disappointment as Dundalk celebrate with the EA Sports Cup

By Eoin Wilson

Declan Devine insists there is no blame on anyone after Derry City's heartbreaking penalty shoot-out defeat to Dundalk in Saturday night's EA Sports League Cup final at the Brandywell.

For the fourth time this season, City and Dundalk finished 2-2 after 90 minutes and the game went all the way to a shoot-out on this occasion - a remarkable feat considering the Candystripes played with 10 men from 60 minutes following the dismissal of midfielder Grant Gillespie.

Misses from Jack Malone and Ally Gilchrist cost Derry in the shoot-out but, despite the devastating nature of the defeat, Devine had nothing but praise for his players.

"It's silly and Grant knows better because he's an experienced player, but it's nobody's fault," he said.

"Our discipline this year has been excellent but we're just gutted. It's nobody's fault here tonight and there's no finger of blame going anywhere.

"Ultimately we have come up a wee bit short in the penalty kicks but if that's the benchmark and that's a team that is as good as anything in the last 30 years since our team in 1989, then we're not far away ourselves."

The Brandywell was packed to capacity and Devine was content that his players gave everything for the supporters who were so vociferous on the night.

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"Dundalk steam roll everyone, let's remember that," he said.

"They beat everyone in sight - they're 27 games unbeaten, they have won 24 of those games. We have lost to a poor goal in the FAI Cup, we have lost to a penalty shoot-out and we're a team that's only been thrown together in January so there shouldn't be any blame, there should be an unbelievable pride in this football club.

"Tell me Irish football isn't good, tell me Irish football isn't full of talent, tell me Irish football doesn't have players who work hard for each other. This is a magnificent occasion and we just came up short."

Derry took the lead in the opening minutes when Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe's shot was spilled by Aaron McCarey and David Parkhouse pounced on the rebound. Michael Duffy drew the visitors level only for a deflected effort from Ogedi-Uzokwe to restore the Candystripes' advantage.

Gillespie's dismissal heightened the home team's task before Sean Gannon made it 2-2 and, though both teams had opportunities to win it, the destination of the trophy was determined from the penalty spot, with Chris Shields slotting home the decisive strike.

City still have European qualification to play for in the remaining weeks of the season with a huge game against Bohemians at the Brandywell next weekend.

The ramifications of the result in that game will be telling for City's season but, despite his players leaving the pitch shattered on Saturday, Devine says his team will be ready to go again.

"It's not hard to pick these boys up," he insisted.

"You see what it means to them. It means as much to our players and staff as it does to the supporters and we have got to trust that we'll be ready for Friday night because in many ways it's a bigger game. If we get the same application then Friday night will look after itself.

"I'm extremely proud that we were able to pack this place and we were able to pack it the right way, trying to play the right way, taking the game to them, going ahead twice in the game.

"It's just hard to take at the minute but it was a magnificent night for us in terms of what we have tried to do."

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