Pat Fenlon: Let's recover then get a win
Murphy saves Hoops at death as Rovers prepare for quick turnaround with replay
THEIR 'Drive For 25' and the road to Lansdowne Road stadium is going to take a bit longer than planned for Shamrock Rovers after they were forced into a replay in their bid to reach the FAI Cup final.
While one club from the southside of Dublin made it look easy in their last-four meeting with a side from the north-west, St Patrick's Athletic comfortably dismissing Finn Harps on a 6-1 scoreline, Rovers were mired in a battle with Derry City.
And any sense of disappointment at the 1-1 scoreline, and the resulting replay in the Brandywell tomorrow night, is diluted by the fact that the Hoops were almost dumped out of the competition and only an injury-time save from keeper Barry Murphy denied Derry a win.
At the quarter-final stage of the competition Rovers - hoping to win the Cup for the 25th time, hence that 'Drive for 25' campaign - were held at home (by Dundalk) but won the replay away and former Derry boss Pat Fenlon has called for a repeat tomorrow night.
"It's a hard place to go and win but we are well capable of doing that. We have to dust ourselves down and get our recovery done as it's a short time for both teams," said Fenlon, who stressed that his side can't get hung-up on the fact that, with Pats winning, they now know their final opponents.
"It doesn't make a difference. We know we're in Europe if we win. That's important as well but we've got to get there first, we'll worry about Pats if we can get to the final," he added, admitting that the save from Murphy was key.
"It was a great save from Barry but I'd expect that from Barry, to be honest. He's a top class goalkeeper and he's been very, very good since I've been here," Fenlon stated.
"It would have been a cruel ending to it because I thought we dominated the second half."
An utterly forgettable game finally burst into life in the last 12 minutes with the two goals and that key save from Murphy. Sadly, while the earlier semi-final between a Dublin club and a side from the north-west had delivered goals (seven of them) and entertainment, this tie had little to keep the crowd or the TV audience awake.
The first half was all huff and puff, one midfield cancelling out the other, and the two keepers were spectators for long periods.
Ger Doherty in the Derry goal did well to cut out a dangerous cross from man-of-the-match Simon Madden on 33 minutes while Doherty was there again on 42 minutes to save a weak header by Karl Sheppard. Just before the break Rovers were on the attack again, with a Ronan Finn cross posing a real threat to Derry but City defender Ryan McBride made the crucial intervention.
The half-time whistle was welcomed by players and fans alike, as minds drifted back to the dismal 1-1 draw between these sides on the opening day of the season.
A great deal has changed since that March day with both managers (Roddy Collins and Trevor Croly) no longer employed by the clubs and five of Derry's starting XI from that game have also left.
The second 45 minutes saw Rovers grow more dominant, Ryan Brennan trying his luck with a shot early in the half and then Hoops sub Dean Kelly sending a header wide.
With 12 minutes left Rovers had their goal from that man Kelly. He has scored some big goals for the Hoops - the one that secured a league title in 2011 and also netting in the League Cup semi-final this season. Sprung from the bench as a replacement for Sheppard, he showed coolness to finish after a poor clearance from Philip Lowry, from Simon Madden's cross, set him up and Rovers fans were jubilant with the goal.
Joy was short-lived, though, as Rory Patterson equalised within two minutes, as he shrugged off his marker to head home from a Michael Duffy corner. And in added time Patterson almost set up the winner, as he won his duel with Jason McGuinness and crossed fro Duffy, only for Murphy to somehow save.
"We could certainly have won it and snatched it right at the death, it was a great save from Barry Murphy," said Derry boss Peter Hutton.
"A draw was a fair result, it was a typical semi-final and it wasn't pretty for the neutral.
"The swirling wind didn't help but we can certainly play much better, we didn't capitalise on our chances in the first half, but we showed great character and resilience to get ourselves back into the game.
"People will put us down as favourites now as we are at home but that's never the case in Cup semi-finals.
"We had no fear coming here and I am sure Rovers will have no fear coming to the Brandywell."