Manager Kenny Shiels lifted his first piece of silverware in his third year at the helm.
Simon Collins reports from Brandywell Stadium
DERRY CITY CLINCHED an 11th EA Sports Cup title as they saw off plucky First Division outfit Cobh Ramblers at Brandywell Stadium.
It ended a six-year wait for a trophy for the Foylesiders as Kenny Shiels lifted his first piece of silverware in his third year at the helm.
Ronan Hale gave the Candy Stripes a 23rd-minute lead with his 12th goal of the season in his first senior cup final appearance.
The First Division club got back on terms two minutes later through Christopher Hull, who scored that memorable winning goal in the giant killing of Dundalk in the semi-finals.
However, City stepped it up after the break as Cobh legs grew heavy and Darren Cole headed the Premier Division outfit back in front before Aaron McEneff put the game to bed from the penalty spot with just under 20 minutes remaining.
Cobh were gifted a chance to get back in the contest with two minutes remaining from the penalty spot but City skipper Gerard Doherty saved from Shane O’Connor to ensure Derry’s 11th victory in the competition and a first since 2011.
In the absence of the cup-tied Ally Roy, Ronan Hale led the City attack with his elder brother, Rory supporting in a more advanced role in behind.
Long-term absentee, Nicky Low, was a notable name on the City substitute’s bench — his first involvement since last June with Conor McDermott reduced to a spectator’s role following his successful operation on a troublesome hip injury.
Cobh, meanwhile, made just the one change from the team which caused that major upset against Dundalk in the semi-finals with skipper, former Ipswich man, Shane O’Connor, replacing Stephen O’Connor.
Derry started confidently but it was Cobh who had the first meaningful effort at goal on four minutes when James McSweeney’s shot from the 18-yard line was steered wide of the post.
60 seconds later McEneff curled his free-kick from 25 yards harmlessly over the crossbar after Rory Hale was fouled just outside the penalty area.
Derry’s Hale brothers linked up superbly on the left side of the Cobh penalty box as Ronan sent Rory into space but his promising run towards goal was thwarted by a well-timed tackle from Kevin Taylor.
Ben Fisk fizzed a shot wide of the target as he took the ball off the toe of Jamie McDonagh, but Cobh would certainly have been content with how the game started.
However, on 18 minutes, the Premier Division outfit carved open the previously resolute Cobh defence, as Ronan Hale found the run of McEneff with a superb crossfield pass. The former Spurs man took it in his stride and his powerful goalbound strike was palmed away by Cobh keeper, Adam Mylod, before Ben O’Riordan put it behind.
From the resultant corner, the ball found its way to McDonagh, who kept the move alive when dinking the ball towards the back post, where Cole headed straight into the hands of the keeper.
Derry broke down the resistance of Cobh on 23 minutes, when Cole’s ball over the top found Ronan Hale, who cut inside McSweeney onto his left foot and fired low into the net.
The Brandywell side threatened to run riot after the opening goal and Aaron Splaine curled a decent effort narrowly over the crossbar moments later.
However, the underdogs clawed their way back into the contest on 25 minutes, when Taylor fired a dangerous ball across the face of goal and Hull — the man who scored that famous semi-final goal against Dundalk — slotted in at the back post for the equaliser. It was another case of disastrous defending from the Candy Stripes — an all too familiar occurrence this season.
The First Division side went in at the break on level terms, but they had to weather the storm at the start of the second half.
Derry started on the front foot, as Ronan Hale ran at the Cobh defence, turned inside Taylor, but his close-range strike was saved by Mylod.
Moments later, McEneff created space deep inside the Cobh half and his left-footed strike needed to be tipped over by Mylod.
The home side restored their lead on 55 minutes from Fisk’s corner, as Cole was allowed a free header and the Scotsman duly found the back of the net in emphatic fashion.
Stephen Henderson was urging his side to push out as Derry upped the tempo and Fisk’s shot was saved by Mylod, before Cobh eventually cleared the danger.
Rory Hale’s well-struck shot from 20 yards was gathered at the second attempt by Mylod before his brother Ronan dragged an effort wide of the far post.
McDonagh did brilliantly to knock the ball past Mylod inside the penalty area, before the Cobh defender bundled him to the ground and referee, Ben Connolly, pointed to the spot.
Up stepped McEneff, who found the back of the net despite the best efforts of Mylod to put the Foylesiders into the driving seat.
Substitute Adrian Delap had the ball in the back of the Cobh net, after a quick counter, but the referee has blown the whistle for an earlier foul on McDonagh much to the despair of an irate Kenny Shiels on the touchline.
Cobh were gifted a lifeline, when Cole clipped the heels of David Hurley inside the box.
However, City skipper, Doherty, saved brilliantly from Cobh captain O’Connor’s penalty kick to ensure the six-year trophy drought at Brandywell came to an end.
Derry City: G. Doherty: J. McDonagh, D. Cole, D. Seaborne, K. McHattie; B. Fisk (A. Delap 75), A. Splaine (N. Low 65), R. Hale (S. McNamee 90), D. Shiels; A. McEneff; Ronan Hale; Subs Not Used – E. Grimes, G. Peers, E. Toal, C. Farren.
Cobh Ramblers: A. Mylod; K. Taylor, G. Walker, J. McSweeney, I. Mylod; D. Fernande (C. Leonard 82) B. O’Riordan (C. Donnellan 74), S. O’Connor, S. Christopher (C. Flemming 61); D. Hurley, C. Hull; G. Walker, S. O’Connor; Subs Not Used – P. Hunt, J. Kabia, L. Cronin, M. Lamb.
Referee – Ben Connolly (Dublin)
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