5 things we learned from Derry City's six goal victory over Finn Harps

Ruaidhri Higgins' Derry City looked sharp in their first pre-season fixture of 2023 as they thrashed an unrecognisable Finn Harps side in front of a sizeable crowd at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium on Sunday.

The City boss opted to use 21 different players during 90 very useful minutes against an experimental Harps team but it's clear Higgins has plenty of exciting talent at his disposal this year. Playing largely two different teams for each half, both with plenty of experience and a sprinkling of youth, there was lots of encouragement for the 1,200 plus supporters in attendance. Here's five talking points from the game . . .

1 Cian Kavanagh will offer something different to City's attacking options

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Ruaidhri Higgins said afterwards he regards Cian Kavanagh and Jordan McEneff as two new signings and the big ex-Waterford striker is certainly going to add to Derry's attacking arsenal. A first hat-trick for the club in this most one-sided of pre-season friendlies and Kavanagh showed multiple facets of his game. He offers something different to Jamie McGonigle and even Colm Whelan. He's quick off the mark as we saw when he latched onto Evan McLaughlin's threaded pass for his first goal; he's aggressive in the box, good in the air and can finish all sorts of chances.

The Derry City team that played in the first half of the friendly game against Finn Harps. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2305GS – 38

His character must be admired too as he could so easily have gone into his shell after missing a glorious chance from close range moments before he eventually broke the deadlock. His clinical strike for his first was expertly taken from distance but he can also play the part of the bustling target man as shown by his second and third goals - headers from close range!

All in all, it was an encouraging hour of action for the striker, whose highlight last year was the winner against St Pat's at Richmond Park. With increased service from the flanks this year from the likes of Ryan Graydon, Michael Duffy and Ben Doherty, we can expect Kavanagh to be generously contributing to the goals for column based on this display.

2 Patrick McEleney picking up where he left off

The Derry City skipper played just 45 minutes but showed exactly why he's been one of the best talents in the League of Ireland. His highlight was a nonchalant 25 yard volley which rattled off the crossbar after he peeled into space from a corner kick and was teed up cleverly by Jordan McEneff - a throwback to Paul Scholes' thumping volley against Bradford from David Beckham's cross back in the day (although 'Fats' did take a touch first!) Perhaps it's a move we'll see on occasion this season and clearly straight from the training ground.

Cian Kavanagh scores his second goal against Finn Harps. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2305GS – 25

McEleney's diagonal pass from midfield which set Ryan Graydon free for Cian Kavanagh's second goal was sublime as he sat in his deeper quarter-back role as the half progressed but it's great to see him on top of his game so early in pre-season.

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3 Brian Maher loves to get involved in the action

The young Dubliner was named in the PFAI Team of the Year and nominated for the SSE Airtricity/Soccer Writers Ireland Goalkeeper of the Year for 2022. He also enjoyed an incredible yet, in the end, heart-breaking journey in the European Championships U21 qualifiers with Ireland. However, not every goalkeeper has the bottle or the ability to take the chances he takes when acting as a sweeper-keeper. The man can no doubt play outfield but whether it's boredom standing in the Derry goal when the Candy Stripes are dominating or he's just being sharp off his line to cut out potential danger, he's always good for the odd heart-stopping moment. Against Harps he ran from his box, chested the ball down but his clearance was charged down and he began to press the Harps striker towards the halfway line. He quickly had to charge back towards goal as the Ballybofey men lined up a shot from 45 yards. With Maher scampering home, Harps midfield trialist rattled the upright with a terrific effort. Lucky escape Brian but never change!

4 Michael Duffy scores goals

Derry City’s Evan McLaughlin. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2305GS – 42
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There was so much excitement surrounding Duffy's homecoming last season before he sustained that horrific broken leg. His return during the second half of the campaign coincided with Derry's incredible run of form which saw them challenge for the title and his second half introduction on Sunday reaped its rewards with two goals. The first was a superb piece of play involving Duffy, Sadou Diallo and Will Patching with the former poking the ball home from close range. His second was a tap-in which still involved a decent level of skill as the ball was played slightly behind him and at pace. With a good preseason behind him, Derry will no doubt be a different animal this season so fingers crossed he stays fit and keeps finding the net. Duffy will be a key cog in the wheel of any league title tilt!

5. The future is bright in red and white

It was great to see young Candystripes Daithi McCallion and Caoimhin Porter playing key roles for Finn Harps as they begin a pivotal season in terms of their development. The First Division will be a real learning curve for both and the experience gained will be invaluable.

The youngsters playing in red and white on Sunday afternoon also showed real promise. We all know what Evan McLaughlin can do and it says enough that Higgins felt it necessary to recall him from an impressive loan spell at Coleraine. The accuracy and weight of his defence-splitting pass for Kavanagh's opener was exceptional and it'll be interesting to see how he fits into Higgins' plans this year.

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Derry City’s Michael Duffy keeps possession against Finn Harps. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2305GS – 33
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Daithi McCallion playing for Finn Harps against his former club Derry City. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2305GS – 30