AN EMOTIONAL Ronan Curtis dedicated his rapid two-goal salvo against Shamrock Rovers last Tuesday night to the memory of his late uncle, Daniel Gray who sadly passed away last week.
Having attended the funeral on Saturday, the day after Derry City’s 3-1 loss in Oriel Park where he also played a full part, Curtis displayed great courage to play 90 minutes on Tuesday at Brandywell as Derry were held by Rovers in a crunch clash which could yet have a huge bearing on the race for third spot.
Curtis who hadn’t managed to find the net since Derry last hosted the ‘Hoops’ back in April in that superb 3-0 win in the league, was back amongst the goals with a two goal salvo inside two first half minutes to take his season’s tally to four.
And it was clearly an emotional night for the winger who wheeled away in celebration and proudly revealed his commemorative t-shirt under his Derry City shirt, with the name and picture of his late family member emblazoned on the front.
He was denied hero status and was disappointed the ‘Candy Stripes’ threw away their lead and the chance to re-claim third spot, however, Curtis was happy to honour the memory of Daniel with two expertly taken strikes.
“That was for my uncle who recently passed away,” he said. “We had to bury him on Saturday past and it was hard, So I did it for him, I was playing for him and it was great to get two goals. Hopefully he’s looking down on me from up there. It was an emotional night and, I think, a nice memory.”
It was certainly a nice touch from the city winger.
Curtis was the match-winner against Cork at Brandywell in the second game of the season as Derry won 1-0 before he netted the first in the 3-0 win over Rovers,
But his goals weren’t enough for Kenny Shiels’ side to clinch the win on this occasion despite appearing to be in command as they led 2-0 with just eight minutes to go before the break.
However, the influential Gary McCabe got one back in the 38th minute and former Ireland international Stephen McPhail’s free-kick from wide of the right somehow found its way through a sea of players and into the net to break Derry hearts with just seven remaining.
Hopefully he’s looking down on me from up there. It was an emotional night and, I think, a nice memory.Ronan Curtis
“All the boys are disappointed we didn’t win the game but we can’t complain,” added Curtis. “We got a draw but we knew they were there for the taking.
“We were in control of the gameduring the first 45 minutes, we out-played them. We were getting the ball down and moving it and the tempo was high. But then they got the first goal back before half-time and it upset our game a bit.
“We were still in the lead and the gaffer warned us not to let them in for a second goal because we knew the next goal was the vital one. Unfortunately for us, they got it.
“The last couple of games we’ve conceded from set-pieces or corners and we just need to work on it. But I don’t think you can fault our efforts. We’ve been brilliant all season and we just need to pick it up going into the last five games.”
With the FAI Cup semi-final against Dundalk on Sunday, Derry won’t resume their league campaign until the following Saturday when they travel to Longford Town. And Curtis believes the Foylesiders can get back on track and keep the pressure on Rovers with a run of victories.
“It’s not all lost,” he insisted. “That’s what the gaffer told us. He doesn’t want any sad faces around the club. He wants us to finish it off and do well because we’ve been brilliant this season.”
And he hopes his excellent solo performance and goals last Tuesday night will be enough to ensure he maintains his place in the starting line-up.
“I want to start every game but that’s up to the gaffer to chose the team. It doesn’t matter who scores as long as we win and we were unlucky not to against Rovers.
“I have to keep working on my finishing but, hopefully, the goals help me keep my place in the team now.
Curtis had put City ahead with the home side’s first effort on target on 17 minutes when he curled his shot beautifully into the far corner of the net.
And just 70 seconds later the winger added a second when he got onto the end of Barry McNamee’s fizzed cross and Murphy could do nothing about Curtis’ close range shot as he blasted it into the net.
Rovers got back into the game on 38 minutes when McEneff’s loose pass was intercepted 25 yards from his own goal and when Sean Boyd played McCabe into space the midfielder blasted into the top corner from 18 yards.
Against the run of play the Dubliners got back on level terms with six minutes left on the clock when McPhail’s inswinging free-kick from wide on the right amazingly found its way into the net.
Derry were applying the pressure in the dying moments of the game and Jarvis had the home side’s best chance on 90 minutes but his volley was beaten away by keeper, Murphy.