PADDY McCOURT was the name on everyone’s lips prior to Friday night’s derby as the ‘Derry Pele’ was poised to line up against his hometown club for the first time since departing for Celtic in 2008.
But at the full-time whistle it was another Derry City legend who was receiving all the plaudits as ex-City skipper, Barry Molloy ‘rolled back the years’ in a man of the match display which helped Finn Harps earn a first away league win against their old foes in the 63rd meeting between the clubs.
Substitute, BJ Banda made the difference in the final third as his deflected strike after a neat swivel on the edge of the box opened the scoring on 45 minutes before his powerful drive in the second half was parried into the path of Michael Funston who tapped-in Harps’ second of the night with eight minutes to go.
But Molloy did what he always did so well at Brandywell as he broke up attacks and hounded the opposition midfield, running himself into the ground for 90 minutes until his calves cramped up and he was replaced by Packie Mailey. By then the job was done and Harps were well on their way to a famous win.
Ollie Horgan claimed it was Molloy’s best performance in a Harps shirt but the midfield general typically played down his pivotal role in the victory.
“Derry were on top first half and got in behind us a bit but we dug in,” said Molloy. “Second half I thought we were excellent, we kept our shape well and created a few chances. We’re delighted with the three points but we won’t get carried away. It’s just something to build on.
I wasn’t happy with the ref who booked me after one and it stopped me making a few more tackles. I had to rein it in a bit after that,Barry Molloy
“We wanted to come out of here with a result, whether it’s a draw or a win. That will hopefully give us a lift going into the next round of games and hopefully we can push on.”
Harps clearly came with a gameplan and ruffled a few feathers with some crunching tackles in the opening stages. Molloy was booked for a foul on Ronan Curtis - the third time the striker was fouled in the opening eight minutes - and the midfielder admitted he had to cool it after going into the book so early.
“We set our stall out early to press them and get tight and a few tackles were going in but I wasn’t happy with the ref who booked me after one and it stopped me making a few more tackles. I had to rein it in a bit after that, But it was a brilliant performance from us, especially defensively.
“Derry are a top side and moved the ball well without really cutting us open. They are a good side but you have to give a lot of credit to our back five. That’s our first clean sheet of the season so it will give us a good bit of confidence.
“It’s more important to get the result than individual performance but we’re happy to get out of here with three points.”
Molloy reckons Derry will bounce back from their current dip in form.
“Obviously it’s a difficult period for Derry now on the back of recent events and a few defeats but I’m sure they will bounce back.”
He was the subject of various chants from the City Faithful in the corresponding fixture last season but he felt the City support at Maginn Park were ‘subdued’ as Harps frustrated their hosts.
“The crowd were a bit more subdued than what they were last year but it’s not about me,” he added. “Derby matches are always tight and second half we were very solid. We got a bit of luck with the goal in the first half but you have to take it when it comes.”