Derry City aim for EA Sports Cup Final win over Cork

By Richard PetrieBBC Sport NI
Derry celebrate
Stephen McLaughlin celebrates after scoring against Sligo in the EA Sports Cup semi-final

Derry City are hoping to continue their remarkable rehabilitation by securing their first major domestic prize since going into administration in 2009.

The Candystripes will play Cork City at Turner's Cross on Saturday night (1800 BST), with the EA Sports Cup, formerly the League Cup, up for grabs.

Derry also have the Premier Division title firmly in their sights as they bid to put memories of the difficult days of relegation from the top flight firmly behind them.

It was back in November 2009 that the Brandywell club suffered the bombshell of losing their Premier status for breaching league regulations by holding secondary, unofficial contracts with players.

The club's chairman and other board members resigned in the wake of the ruling and all the club's players were made free agents.

Since then manager Stephen Kenny has overseen a remarkable revival of fortunes on the pitch as he has built a team capable of challenging for honours from scratch.

With his budget drastically reduced, Kenny set about recruiting mainly local players and homegrown talent, unearthing a few gems in the likes of James McClean, now at Sunderland, along the way.

Meanwhile off the field, new chairman Phil O'Doherty plans a major multi-million makeover of the Brandywell within the next few years.

The transformation in the club's fortunes saw them win the First Division title at the first attempt last year and now a first league championship success since 1997 is a real possibility.

Former Derry City player and BBC Radio Foyle analyst Liam Coyle says it is "amazing the way the club has reinvented itself".

"It was devastating for everyone in the city associated with football when the club went close to going out of existence," said Coyle.

"If your team is relegated for football reasons then you can take that on the chin but when it is for off-field irregularities that is difficult to take.

"It's been an astonishing revival since then, with the club once again on a sound financial footing and the Board determined not to make the mistakes of the past by overspending.

"They have steadied things at the club and everything is looking a lot more stable.

"Stephen Kenny has done a great job by recruiting the right players and harnessing the talent at his disposal, and they are now reaping the rewards."

Derry City celebrate
Derry City celebrate after winning the First Division title last year

The EA Sports Cup is the most immediate priority for the Candystripes as they seek to win the competition which proved a happy hunting ground for them before their demotion.

The Candystripes won the competition for four consecutive years between 2005 and 2008 and are keen to lift the trophy again by winning Saturday's teatime decider.

Daniel Lafferty must sit out the final after being sent-off in the dramatic semi-final victory over Sligo Rovers after a penalty shootout.

Coyle is very confident that the silverware will be heading the way of the Maiden City on Saturday night.

"I have no doubt that they will win it, even though Cork will have a vociferous crowd behind them with home advantage," said the former Northern Ireland forward.

"Derry have probably been the best footballing side in the league this season and all the players have been part of a real team effort.

"They have been playing with wide men and often with three up front, it's been great to watch.

"The potential rewards are there for the team now, it's just all about keeping their nerve."