MICHAEL Duffy’s rise to prominence in the Derry City first team continued unabated at the Belfield Bowl on Sunday, the winger netting a memorable hat-trick, just hours before the arrival of his 20th birthday.
And having now netted his first senior ‘treble,’ the former St. Columb’s College student has not only exhibited versatility when operating on the flanks, but has also been a potent goal threat having now netted 10 goals in all competitions this season.
Add in the fact that Duffy has also netted two goals in Europe with strikes in Wales and in Belarus and it’s clear that the midfielder could well follow in the footsteps of former wingers, James McClean and Stephen McLaughlin.
Duffy opened the scoring in the 20th minute and he completed his hat-trick during the early stages of the second half to effectively end this match as a contest.
With the constant downpour taking its toll on the quality of the game during the opening period, Derry eventually got to grips with the elements and the “Candy Stripes” showed no signs of fatigue or, indeed, frustration following their arduous return trip from Eastern Europe last week.
Brandywell boss, Peter Hutton, opted to freshen things up presenting starts to youngsters Josh Tracey and Nathan Boyle and that decision certainly reaped dividends as Hutton’s enthusiastic youth did everything in their power to impress on the day.
“It was a great result for us,” said Hutton afterwards. “I asked the players for a response following our disappointing defeat in the Europa League and to be fair, the players certainly responded at what is a very difficlt venue,” he added.
Delighted with Duffy’s hat-trick, Hutton heaped praise on his talented young winger insisting that he has been rewarded for his work on the training ground.
“We dominated the game and we really could well have recorded double figures but for the performance of their keeper, Conor O’Donnell, who pulled off quite a few top drawer stops,” admitted Hutton.
“We opted to freshen things up a bit and the lads brought in didn’t let themselves or their team-mates down,” noted Hutton. “The players worked hard from the start and they didn’t do too much wrong in what was an excellent performance against a tricky UCD team.”
Hutton, however, refused to look too far ahead having now moved into sixth place in the Premier Division table.
“We’ve had a good night all round, but we’ll continue to take it game by game and see where that takes us. We will not be looking too far ahread, we have Bohemians at home on Friday night and that’s another big game for us. They sit immediately behind us in the league table, so we’ll be attempting to open up and gap and contine our move up the table.”
Duffy put the “Candy Stripes” into the driving seat when controlling an incisive through ball from Mark Timlin before skilfully tucking it beyond the reach of O’Donnell and Derry were on their way in the 20th minute.
And the student could have conceded again in the 39th minute but keeper, O’Donnell, produced the first of a plethora of stops, the Buncrana man saving a Rory Patterson effort with his feet after Nathan Boyle had fashioned the chance with a quality pass. However, the Strabane man was to make no mistake three minutes before the break. Boyle robbed James Kavanagh before sending Patterson clear and he drilled a shot home from the edge of the area.
Boyle emerged the provider for Duffy to nett his second and Derry’s third goal in the 50th minute, the winger presented with the easiest of chances and the hat-trick was recorded just two minutes later when Duffy gleefully diverted Josh Tracey’s low cross to the net.
Four goals to the good, UCD refused to give up the ghost and they netted what proved to be a consolation strike in the 54th minute when Robbie Benson’s free-kick appeared to have been saved by Doherty before the keeper seemed to fumble the ball over the goal-line.
O’Donnell twice denied Patterson with top drawer saves before Derry added a fifth goal in the 90th minute.
Derry substitute, Stephen Dooley, pulled the ball back for Barry Molloy who, interestingly, played a captain’s role when driving the ball high into the top corner of the net from 20 yards.
And Derry weren’t finished yet as Patterson then grabbed his second strike five minutes into added time when rounding O’Donnell to shoot home to end the rout.
Meanwhile, Hutton also confirmed that Donegal native, Shaun Kelly, has joined the Brandywell club until the end of the 2015 season at least.
Considered a talented right-back, Hutton has admired the player who held a contract at Scottish club, Hearts, before turning home to represent Dundalk and Galway before making his way to Limerick and winning the First Division title back in 2011.
The 25-year-old was keen to return to Donegal having fathered his first child.
“He’s a player I’ve watched when managing Finn Harps,” confirmed Hutton.
“He’s a quality full-back who was keen to come to us having enjoyed a successful career with Limerick and I’m delighted to get him,” added the Derry boss.
Kelly played at the Brandywell in the final game of last season when Limerick lost 6-0.
With Kelly arriving, Dave Elebert has leftthe club. The Dubliner who had struggled with injury, made just three appearances.
UCD - Conor O’Donnell; Mark Langtry (Dan Tobin, 70 mins.), Gareth Matthews, James Kavanagh, Sean Coyne; Chris Mulhall (Samir Belhout, 38), Robbie Benson, Colm Crowe, Ayman Ben Mohamed (Gary Burke 76); Timmy Molloy; Conor Cannon.
DERRY CITY - Gerard Doherty; Danny Ventre (Barry McNamee, 57), Ryan McBride, Aaron Barry, Mark Timlin; Josh Tracey, Philip Lowry, Barry Molloy, Michael Duffy (Stephen Dooley, 78); Nathan Boyle (Patrick McEleney 64), Rory Patterson.
REFEREE - Mr. Paul McLaughlin (Monaghan).