RORY Patterson was hailed the Derry City hero in the FAI Cup final thanks to his brace of strikes against St. Pat’s Athletic and yesterday the Strabane striker claimed the Airtricity/Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland “Player of the Month” Award for November.
And given that the FAI Cup Final would figure prominently in the award for November, it comes as no surprise that Derry City dominated the nominations with Patterson taking the honour ahead of team-mates Barry McNamee and Gerard Doherty, who finished second and third respectively.
Having played a prominent role in the cup final after entering the fray as a second half substitute, his two goals - one from the penalty spot - proved pivotal in Derry’s victory.
Contracted to English club, Plymouth Argyle, Patterson joined the “Candy Stripes” before the start of the 2012 season having been on loan at Linfield. An avid supporter of the Foyleside club, he has watched Derry play regularly at the Brandywell before signing a two year contract.
And considered a well travelled centre-forward, his move to Derry had always been an ambition for the player who also represented FC United of Manchester having also represented Rochdale.
Patterson has also played for Coleraine in the Irish league.
However, his first season at Derry City has been punctuated with injury problems and a torn hamstring saw him sidelined for a period of three months.
“My problem was I had played a full season in the Irish League and then joined Derry City without a break and I now realise that the body needs rest and I tried to do the impossible,” he said at the time of his injury problems.
“I was never injured before, so to have visited the treatment room at the Brandywell came as a bit of a shock to me,” he added.
Brought to the Brandywell by Declan Devine and Paul Hegarty, Patterson was viewed as the perfect replacement for Derry’s top marksman, in fact, the League of Ireland top marksman for that season, Eamon Zayed who had netted 26 goals.
And given that the 28-year-old has made a grand total of 21 competitive appearances, he has netted a superb total of 22 goals!
Looking back to Derry’s first visit to the Aviva Stadium, Patterson was aware that there was some doubt in the build-up to the game as to whether or not he would feature and, as it turned out, he had to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench.
Having replaced Patrick McEleney 15 minutes into the second half, he played a starring role in the defeat of St. Pat’s.
“I didn’t play a massive amount of games throughout the season, so to finish the year off as I did, coming off the subs’ bench and finishing on a winning team in the FAI Cup final was unreal,” said Rory.
“No one gave us a chance really, we were very much the underdogs in everyone’s mind. However, we knew it in our hearts that we’d travel to Dublin and give it a go.
“We believed in ourselves and we knew we had a chance given that quite a few of our key players had returned to full fitness. Having won the cup, I was delighted for the fans; it was an amazing few days for the club and the reception on our return to Derry and the Guildhall was something else on the day,” recalled the striker.
He claimed he wasn’t surprised to miss out on a starting place against St Patrick’s Athletic.
“In fairness to Declan Devine, I hadn’t played that much in the three months prior to the final, so I was a risk. I wasn’t fit for the semi-final game against Shelbourne in the run up to the final but we got there after a replay in Dublin.
“On top of that I missed the last league game against St. Patrick’s Athletic, also at the Brandywell, due to a one match suspension, so it didn’t come as a major surprise that I didn’t start in the final in the Aviva Stadium,” he concluded.
However, there are those who felt that during his celebration of the winning goal during the first half of extra-time, Patterson made it clear to the Derry bench that they had made a mistake to leave him out, a point Declan Devine endorsed after the game.
“I don’t think Rory appreciated our decision to leave him out of the starting line-up,” smiled the Derry boss. “It certainly upset him a bit and I think from the moment he got onto the pitch, he felt he had a point to prove.
“Without any hesitation, he demanded the ball to take the penalty after Stephen McLaughlin had been bundled to the ground and produced a superb finish which was great.
“And he then finished off what was a magnificent move to score the winning goal. Yes, I think it would be fair to suggest that Rory had something to say to us but, hey, that’s fine. I’ve no problems whatsoever with that, the decision to leave him out appeared to have reaped handsome dividends,” laughed the Brandywell boss.