BARRY Molloy would never have dreamed that he would celebrate his 250th competitive appearance for Derry with a stunning display against Linfield last Tuesday night at the Brandywell.
Add in the fact that he captained the team in the absence of Kevin Deery and, of course, netted that fabulous equalising goal in the 66th minute - a strike which sent the Lone Moor Road venue wild with delight.
A perfect cushioned header, which looped over ‘Blues’ keeper, Alan Blayney, sent the capacity crowd into raptures as Derry continued to grow in confidence following the intelligent use of tactical substitutions in the second period.
Quiet and unassuming, the 28-year-old pointed to the quality of the “perfect cross” delivered by Simon Madden, but he was extremely delighted to have scored with the header.
“I was aware of the 250th appearance and having made it when captaining the Derry against Linfield was always going to be very special for me. But to have won the match made it all the more memorable and, of course, scoring a goal certainly made it a performance to remember,” laughed Barry.
Having made his debut against UCD at the Brandywell back in 2005, Molloy has been an ever-present in the first team and despite having lost so many players during the close season, the 28-year-old believes the club’s new signings have settled in well.
“The Linfield match is over and a few players got game time which was important, but we’ve got to refocus our attentions now on the visit of Cork on Friday night. That will be a very tough match for us and I think they will fancy their chances at Brandywell after they went so close to turning over Shamrock Rovers last weekend.
“So we’ve got to be ready for that and concentrate on getting three points as that’s all that matters,” claimed the midfielder.
Meanwhile, back to Brandywell and with a fanatical attendance willing the home side on, Derry certainly rose to the occasion as the early fear had immediately been passed on to the visitors and that, added to the Brandywell club’s superior fitness levels, saw the home side record what was a memorable result.
Mark Farren exhibited great pace to claim an under-weighted back-pass but he failed to guide the ball home from the angle in the 75th minute but, one minute later, the striker unselfishly set up Stephen McLaughlin who put Derry into the driving seat.
A sweeping move saw substitute, Patrick McEleney, flash a low cross into the danger area and with his back to goal, Farren opted to set-up his Inishowen team-mate who drilled the low shot home for a 2-1 lead.
And the icing on the cake arrived during injury time when Madden, who gave a superb performance on the right, raced from the half-way line with the ball before poking it across the keeper and into the net to end this fixture as a contest.
“We were down a few bodies and I feel sorry for Eddie McCallion as he had to make way to facilitate a tactical change in the second half,” maintained a delighted Declan Devine afterwards.
“Eddie had done nothing wrong, but the changes we made helped and with our supporters clearly behind us in that second half, it was a fabulous result for us and another memorable night.”
Preferring not to single out individual players for special praise, Devine side-stepped that rule when learning of Molloy’s special landmark after the game.
“We have talked regularly this season about the importance of our midfielders weighing in with more goals,” claimed the manager. “We netted just three from the central midfield area last season, so that had to improve.
“And while Barry netted an absolutely magnificent goal against Linfield, he actually hit the crossbar against Shelbourne last week and, to be totally honest, could have netted a hat-trick in the games against Lisburn Distillery,” smiled the Brandywell boss.
“He was fabulous against Linfield, but he’s always been a goal threat. He’s a born winner who refuses to settle for second best. He boasts great fitness levels and he remains one of the top midfield players in the country.
“But we expect him to score more goals this season and that applies to all our midfielders, they must contribute on that front and we’ve no doubt that the statistics from midfield will improve as the season progresses.”
Clearly overwhelmed at the 3-1 victory, Devine agreed that his players had become fearful when Linfield broke the deadlock on the half-hour, Michael Carvill’s superb pass guided home by the alert Philip Lowry.
“I detected that,” admitted Devine. “But to be fair to the more experienced players, they refused to be intimidated and continued to battle. We rushed the players into the dressing room at the break, we got to grips with the situation and we wouldn’t entertain any negative talk. We told them that an equalising goal would throw this match wide open as our supporters stayed with us despite falling a goal in arrears.
“Barry netted that goal and, to be fair, we never looked back. We started the game with players who had yet to start a match this season - Eddie McCallion, Mark Farren and Ryan McBride - and to get this result was significant. It will raise confidence levels and go a long way to boosting the morale of the team itself which is great.
“Despite the absence of Brian McGroary, Kevin Deery, Shane McEleney and Rory Patterson we knew that we had enough in the locker to get through the tie. We knew our fitness levels would be better and that our determination to get through was also there.”