ASK GER DOHERTY what the most disappointing moment of his 15-year career in senior football is and he recalls a November afternoon back in 2008.
With Lansdowne Road under redevelopment, the RDS hosted the Ford FAI Cup final in which his Derry City side faced league champions Bohemians.
Earlier that year, the goalkeeper had rejoined his hometown club, where he made his debut at 16 before moving to Derby County and carving out a successful career at Welsh outfit The New Saints, and was looking to pick up his second piece of silverware for Stephen Kenny’s side.
The odds of that happening were shortened when Sammy Morrow put the Candystripes ahead from a free-kick but Glen Crowe equalised soon after. Doherty could do little about a Jason Byrne penalty before Morrow levelled the terms with his second.
Doherty kept out Killian Brennan and Mindaugas Kalonas excellently in extra-time and, after 120 minutes of football, they couldn’t be separated. Cruelly, it was Doherty’s opposite number Brian Murphy who proved the shootout hero – saving from Kevin Deery and Ruaidhri Higgins to earn the Gypsies a 4-2 win.
Watching on as the double winners lifted the trophy is still vivid in Doherty’s mind.
“I’ve played a lot of big games in my career but 2008 sticks out as the most disappointed I’ve ever been after a match. I know how much it would have meant to everybody at the club and everyone in Derry to have won the final.
Having played so well too, we came out on the wrong side. I remember staying behind and watching the Bohs boys celebrating and it hurt badly.”
Derry travel down to Dublin for what is a repeat of the 2006 final on Sunday and, with three of the last four decided by spot-kicks, it is likely to be something Declan Devine will prepare for in the days leading up to the game.
“I watched the last couple of finals myself and as a goalkeeper I don’t think you’re under any pressure when it goes to penalties. If it does it’s pot luck.
“We lost that one (in 2008) to Bohs and it still hurts. If it gets that far then hopefully we can win it that way but I would rather it didn’t go to penalties and we do it in ordinary time.”
In what has been a frustratingly inconsistent season at the Brandywell, Derry come into the final in good form.
Doherty after the final whistle back in 2008. Credit: INPHO/Cathal Noonan
Wins over Shamrock Rovers and fellow finalists St Patrick’s Athletic on top of the 3-0 semi-final victory against Shelbourne mean Devine will have a couple of selection headaches after the return of several key players from spells on the sidelines.
The 31-year-old admits they didn’t give a good enough account of themselves at times this year but wants to make it up to the fans and their manager by bringing the cup back to Foyleside.
“During the season, myself included, we’ve made too many mistakes. It’s been early in the game too so we’ve been putting ourselves under pressure and are always on the back foot from them.
“We’ve tightened up at the back, the concentration’s better and there’s hardly been any mistakes recently. We’re always going to be a threat going forward so if we can keep it tight at the back for long periods of the game I think we will be grand.
“This year has been very up and down. We’ve had most of our best results away from home and I suppose it’s not fair on the fans because we’ve definitely let them down at the Brandywell.
There were a lot of people who were getting on his (Devine’s) back. It was probably the players fault more than anything – we were going out there and not performing and Deccie was taking most of the flack for that.
“You have to lot at the bigger picture, very good players left Derry City and he didn’t have a lot of time to bring new ones in. He’s made some great signings and I know it seems like we go on about the injuries but I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. He’s had to play without five or six senior players at times.
“All credit to him and the staff, they stuck in there and all the boys really want to win this match – if not for themselves but for Deccie as well because they know how much it would mean to him.
“I know it’s hard for the fans to sit and watch us getting beaten but we’re trying 100% and no one works harder than Deccie and Heggsy (assistant manager Paul Hegarty) at the club.
They’re putting in every hour that they can to try make the club better. Hopefully everyone appreciates the fact he has got us to two cup finals and we can bring one back to Derry.
“To give them this day at the Aviva, I’m actually excited for everybody. I just hope they all make the effort to get down. It’s going to a big occasion for the city and there has been a big buzz around the town.
“It’s hard times to spend their money but I hope they can all make their way down and support us.”