THE FLOODLIGHT failure at Brandywell on Friday night threatened to deprive the large attendance of a near perfect performance and a night which will live long in the memory for one young Candy Stripe in particular.
Had the Derry City and Strabane District Council and their on-call electrician not saved the day with the clock ticking down and the FAI’s match assessor ready to pull the plug on the fixture, we wouldn’t have witnessed a fine first senior goal for highly rated prospect, Jack Malone who lit up the stadium.
The match went ahead, 45 minutes behind schedule, but it was worth the wait for a dominant display by the Candy Stripes and Malone’s 25 yard strike put the gloss on a polished performance which keeps alive Derry’s European aspirations with 11 games to go!
You’re always reluctant to sing the praises of young, emerging talent at the club, particularly after just his fourth first team appearance, but forgive me for lavishing praise on 19 year-old Malone who showed balls of steel in taking on that strike after a wonderful build-up which included 19 passes and a neat one-two with Greg Sloggett.
The Derry support were willing him to take on the shot as he made space on the edge of the Sligo box and he didn’t disappoint.
The fact the Top of the Hill lad was Declan Devine’s first substitute on the night told its own story as the backroom team rate him highly.
Of course, given Derry were 2-0 up and very much in the ascendancy, it made the decision to bring him on a lot easier but he very much looks the part from what I’ve seen of him.
It was a heartwarming moment for Jack to net his first goal for his hometown club and a memorable sight as he ran towards the City boss on the touchline to celebrate.
The floodlight issue certainly didn’t darken the mood ahead of kick-off and young Malone’s cameo performance shows the future is bright at the Lone Moor Road club.
Devine, even during his first stint as manager, has shown he’s always willing to give youth a chance and he’s continuing the club’s tradition of blooding talented young footballers. Jack Parke was another of the U19 contingent who made an appearance on the first team bench last Friday night.
No doubt Paddy McCourt is a major influence too as he keeps a close eye on the club’s underage fortunes and the Derry Pele also deserves huge credit.
And Derry assistant boss, Kevin Deery believes ‘the sky’s the limit’ for the youngster.
“It epitomises what we want to do here,” Deery said about Malone’s contribution on the night. “Young local footballers who have the hunger and appetite to work hard, show an honesty and he’s got quality as well.
“The sky’s the limit for him if he really knuckles down, keeps driving on and working hard. He could be a cracking player for this club. He has to stay with it, don’t get too carried away. Just come in to work again and go hard again.”
While the game was all but over when Malone made an appearance - Sligo wilted after Jamie McDonagh’s fine strike - it’s still a ballsy decision to send on a teenager in a game of such importance.
There were so many excellent performances in red and white on Friday night. Peter Cherrie made a crucial save from Romeo Parkes and Ally Gilchrist a goal-saving interception in the first half. McDonagh, even from right-back, has shown in recent weeks he is up there with the best crossers of the ball in the league and he fully deserved his second goal of the season.
However, Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe was the undeniable man of the match for his wonderful solo goal and his individual brilliance in the lead up to his assist for McDonagh. He gets fans on the edge of their seats and for a man who has had 13 clubs in 13 years, he’s fairly settled on Foyleside.
The likeable Londoner has emerged as a fans’ favourite and fully deserved his standing ovation when subbed in the second half.
Had he been fit to play against UCD the previous week, Derry would no doubt be sitting pretty in third. His development since the start of the season has been notable. It takes time when coming into a foreign league and new surroundings. And while he always had the ability to beat a man, he’s now taken his game up several notches by finding his goalscoring touch.
Seven goals from his last seven matches is some going and he now joins David Parkhouse at the top of Derry’s scoring charts with nine. If he doesn’t get nominated for the July ‘Player of the Month’ then Derry may wrap it up!