CRUSADERS boss, Stephen Baxter’s strong team selection at Seaview was evidence of the respect the Irish League giants afforded Maiden City ahead of their Tennant’s Irish Cup fifth round tie - and it was fully justified!
The Irish Cup is high on the Hatchet Men’s priority list and Baxter was leaving nothing to chance against the Intermediate League minnows who were formed just two years ago!
And while there was never any real danger of an Irish Cup shock of seismic proportions, the Derry side emerged from the 2-0 defeat with plenty of pride following a plucky display against a team who are in pole position to clinch the Gibson Cup this season.
Baxter’s team selection, which included former Derry City players, Mark McChrystal and Philip Lowry, as well as established Irish Premiership stars like Paul Heatley and Billy Joe Burns, was merited as Maiden City made them work for their place in the last 16.
For a club in its infancy, Maiden City, under the tutelage of Colm Cassidy, have big ambitions and they can look back on Saturday’s historic Cup clash on the Shore Road as a landmark occasion should they build on the experience.
Cassidy insisted he wanted to leave an impression at the North Belfast venue and it was certainly mission accomplished as they left with their reputation as a progressive club enhanced.
With the Craig Memorial Cup in the bag this season, it’s already been a memorable campaign for the Waterside based club but theirs is a long term project and recent successes has simply given them a hunger for more.
They hold lofty ambitions for a club taking its first steps but Cassidy is determined to keep the players’ feet on the ground.
“We want to play at this level in five or six years time,” was Cassidy’s ambitious statement afterwards. “That’s our aim.
“We’ve one trophy in the bag, another three to play for and another final to look forward to, a quarter-final and the league starts next week.
I couldn’t believe it when I saw the teamsheet. I thought he was winding me up. I was waiting to see some 15 or 16 year-olds but he fielded probably his strongest team available.Colm Cassidy
“We have an 18 year-old playing there today, a 17 year-old came on as a sub. I just hope the guys can kick on. I wanted us to leave an impression. Okay, we might be an Intermediate team but we strive for better.
“I like to keep my feet firmly on the ground. We won the Craig Memorial Cup and I went in to congratulate them but told them to focus on the next match. We’ll enjoy the day and let our hair down tonight.”
Cassidy was taken back when he was handed the Crusaders teamsheet prior to kickoff and when the Derry men found themselves 1-0 down after 70 seconds when Jordan Forsythe capitalised on a misplaced headed clearance from Michael O’Hara, the Maiden City coach would’ve been forgiven for fearing the worst.
However, he was delighted with how they quickly settled into the game and shut the free-scoring Irish League leaders out until the 86th minute when David Cushley added a second.
“I couldn’t believe it when I saw the teamsheet,” he said. “I thought he was winding me up. I was waiting to see some 15 or 16 year-olds but he fielded probably his strongest team available. And that was a mark of respect. I could actually hear him at half-time and he was having a right go at them.
“We have to remember who we’re playing against and we’re playing against a far better side but we did play better second half and I hope we’ve left an impression.
“That will stand them in good stead, not just for the rest of the season but for the future. Somebody might have caught the eye, you never know. But it’s gone now, we’re out - it’s history and we move on to the next game.”
Crusaders - S. O’Neill; B. Burns, M. McChrystal, S. Wards, C. McClean; D. Cushley, M. Snoddy (R. Nimick 87), ; D. Caddell, P. Lowry, J. Forsythe (P. Heatley h-t); D. Caddell, J. Glackin;.
Subs Not Used - M. Dougherty, J. Owens, L. Anderson.
Maiden City: C. Brady; R. Harkin, M. O’Hara, C. Loughrey, J. Hale; R. Semple (C. Cooley 70), J. McClay, D. McCready, A. Walsh, , A. Rogan (A. Scott 60); P. Ward (S. Ferry 80)
Subs Not Used - K. Mulcahy, J. King, C. Mansfield, L. Roddy.
Referee: Lee Tavinder.