MARK Farren moved to within two goals of Liam Coyle’s all-time scoring record of 112 strikes yesterday afternoon as the League Cup holders opened the defence of their title with a deserved victory.
Facing near neighbours, Finn Harps, Derry will point to a brace of strikes, interestingly registered on the stroke of half time, as the game’s defining moment.
Indeed the home lot couldn’t believe their luck as Patrick McEleney and Farren both found the net as the dugouts had been preparing to return to the dressing room in the 45th minute.
Played in front of a small attendance by Derry City standards, it certainly was a thoroughly deserving win for the “Candy Stripes” who made a total of six changes from the side held scoreless by UCD at this venue last Friday night.
Having won this trophy a record 10 times, it was clear that Derry were anxious not to lose on home turf to their Donegal First Division neighbours and despite a hesitant start, the Brandywell side eventually gained the initiative in the 18th minute.
Mark Farren, who continues to work hard in an effort to regain full fitness, beat Harps’ young keeper, Shaun Patton, in a race for possession before intelligently cutting the ball back into the path of the advancing Barry Molloy and the skipper immediately lashed the ball high into the Harps’ net in the 36th minute and the “Candy Stripes” were on their way.
But it was that half-time brace of goals which proved the game’s turning point and Harps paid the penalty for what could only be described as defensive frailties.
Patrick McEleney gained possession on the left and as the midfielder skilfully skipped across the Derry 18 yards line without a challenge coming in, the talented teenager gleefully tucked the ball neatly into the corner of the net with any fuss.
But it was to get worse for the visitors.
Having returned to centre the ball and re-start the game, Harps then recklessly lost possession and when Stephen McLaughlin moved forward, his thunderous shot had rebounded off a defender and into the path of the suspiciously offside Farren who drove the ball home from close range.
That goal - the player’s 110th competitive strike - now leaves him just two goals short of equalling Liam Coyle’s all-time Derry City scoring record.
And there’s no doubt that the Greencastle man will have high hopes of surprassing the 112 target sooner rather than later.
No Way Back For Harps
Three goals in arrears at the break, the Donegal side were never going to win the game but Derry always appeared to be that bit shaper and more confident when in possession.
Harps continued to battle but they got very little change from a determined Derry defence and when Molloy netted his second and City’s fourth goal with five minutes remaining, the small attendance was already leaving the Lone Moor Road stadium.
And highlighting the overall dominance of the home side, reserve team keeper, Eugene Ferry, may have been involved in the action but his first serious test centred on an 87th minute effort from Harps’ striker, Blain Curtis, the keeper getting down low to make a solid save.
Derry will take comfort from the fact that they netted four goals without reply having made six changes but, to be totally fair, Finn Harps will not lose any sleep over the result.
Director of football, Felix Healy, already having made it clear that his main focus was on this Friday’s trip to First Division leaders, Longford Town.
Derry City – 4-4-2 – Ferry; Madden, McCallion, McBride, Crossan; McGroarty, Molloy, P. McEleney, Morrison (McLaughlin, 24 mins, Curran, 71); Farren (McNamee, 73), McDaid.
Finn Harps – 4-4-2 – Patton; Doherty (Carlin 73), McMonagle, O’Hagan, Coll; Clarke (Harkin, 54), McGowan, McBride, Tracey; Curtis, McHugh (O’Mahony, h-t).
Referee – Mr. T. Connolly (Dublin).