Derry City 1 Cork City 1
The FAI Cup pendulum is now firmly in Cork City’s favour following this battle at the Brandywell on Friday night.
The Candystripes must do it the hard way, now facing a 300-mile trek from Foyleside to Leeside as they attempt to return to the Aviva Stadium for the second time in as many years.
And while Friday’s result was probably a fair one, given the overall balance of play, not even the undoubted brilliance of Derry talisman Patrick McEleney could swing the tie in his side’s favour.
Indeed, McEleney, who became a father on Thursday, met his match in Cork City goalkeeper Mark McNulty who produced several top drawer stops on the night to keep Cork in the tie.
Derry started well and they were rewarded with the vital breakthrough goal in the fourth minute following a set-piece situation.
McEleney whipped the ball into the danger area from the corner flag and team skipper Ryan McBride rose majestically to direct a downward header into the net.
Derry could have doubled their lead in the 19th minute following another corner kick as they forced Cork onto the back foot when playing down the hill.
Again McEleney supplied the ammunition and when McNulty dived out to punch the ball clear, Derry winger Stephen Dooley drilled a low shot wide of the target.
One minute before the break Cork went close to restoring when Billy Dennehy’s low free-kick scraped the outside of the Derry upright.
However, within four minutes of the second half the “Leesiders” were back on level terms and it was a goal of Derry’s own making.
Defender Dean Jarvis failed to adequately clear his lines as he attempted to intercept the ball, his deflection sending Karl Sheppard clear on goal. However, he was denied by a superb Ger Doherty save.
But when the ball broke out to the Mark O’Sullivan, the striker picked his spot before driving it inside the post to level matters from 18 yards.
The equaliser clearly gave Cork the boost they required and they could have moved into the driving seat in the 58th minute when a diving header from Sheppard narrowly missed the target from close range.
The Cork keeper pulled off off a superb save to deny McEleney in the 70th minute, McNulty parrying the effort before successfully gathering the ball as the home side began to press.
Mark O’Sullivan went close for Cork four minutes from the end while McNulty parried yet another McEleney effort in the 87th minute to deny Derry a late win.
So it’s back to Turner’s Cross and while Cork will be considered odds-on favourites, Derry will travel with confidence when reflecting on the quality of their performance on Friday night.
With Dundalk, Longford and Bray already in the hat for the semi-final draw, Monday night’s game should prove particularly interesting.
Derry City: Doherty, McLaughlin, McBride, Barry, Jarvis, Dooley (80), Cornwall, McNamee, McEleney, Timlin, Quigley (Morrison, 64).
Cork City: McNulty, McSweeney, D. Dennedy, Bennett, Gaynor, Murray (Dunleavy, 76), Buckley, Sheppard, Miller, B. Dennehy, O’Sullivan.
Referee: P. McLaughlin (Monaghan).