Finn Harps 2, Derry City 1
DERRY CITY boss, Kenny Shiels insists he can have no arguments about the club’s opening day defeat at Ballybofey as Finn Harps battled to a first league win over their North West rivals in 18 years!
Goals from debutantes, Dave Scully on the stroke of half-time and ex-Derry City striker, Ryan Curran on 75 minutes, put the home side firmly into the driving seat in front of over 4,500 supporters at Finn Park.
A stoppage time strike from Rory Patterson gave the Derry fans who had remained in the ground a glimmer of hope but the evening belonged to Finn Harps who celebrated their return to the top flight after an eight year absence.
The rain sodden pitch at Finn Park certainly wasn’t conducive to free-flowing football and while Shiels remarked that the surface was ‘tailor-made for Harps’, he refused to blame it for the result.
“It wasn’t what you would call a football game” said Shiels. “There was lots of other things surrounding it and it was like let’s ‘wellie’ the ball up the pitch and all that sort of stuff and we got sucked into that.
“It was hard not to,” he added. “I feel sorry for the supporters because we weren’t able to play. There were restricting circumstances.
“It’ easy to make excuses about the pitch and I’m not here to make excuses, I’m here to give an explanation about the performance and I feel the best team won. I can’t have any arguments about the result.”
Harps boss, Ollie Horgan surprised many with his starting line-up as ex-City skipper Barry Molloy started in central midfield while last season’s young player of the year, Tony McNamee and Player of the year’, Ray Foy began on the bench.
Shiels meanwhile handed debuts to defender, Niclas Vemmelund and Jordan Allen.
I feel sorry for the supporters because we weren’t able to play. There were restricting circumstances.Kenny Shiels
And Derry flew out of the traps at the start of the game and really should have taken the lead in the opening 60 seconds but Jordan Allen couldn’t get enough on Gareth McGlynn’s superb cross and headed wide.
Patterson then sent a cross low into the danger area from the right on seven minutes which found McGlynn who was shaping to bend the ball towards goal but Damien McNulty stopped him in his tracks with a superb tackle.
The Derry attacks were building momentum and Aaron McEneff probably should have tested the goalkeeper when the ball broke to him on the edge of the box but he blasted his shot over the bar.
Ryan McBride and Allen then had efforts scrambled off the line after Ciaran Gallagher failed to clear from a corner kick.
Two minutes later and Harps were in front when Adam Hanlon’s free-kick was headed past Gerard Doherty from close range by Scully.
There was little noteworthy chances during the second half until Ryan Curran managed to beat the offside trap and latched onto Keith Cowan’s pass before slotting past Doherty to mark his debut in style.
Derry huffed and puffed but it wasn’t until the second minute of stoppage time when Nathan Boyle split the Harps defence and Patterson glided past Cowan before clinically finding the net.
Boyle saw his looping header moments later clawed from under the bar by Gallagher who crashed into the post for his troubles.
However, there wasn’t sufficient time for an equaliser as referee, Tom Connolly blew the final whistle just as Derry began to build a promising attack.
But it was to be Harps night and it proved a most welcome return to the top flight for Horgan’s men.
And Shiels agreed that Harps played to their strengths and deserved to get the result.
“The pitch didn’t really suit us,” added Shiels. “It was more suitable for Finn Harps’ type of game. It’s a reason why the game was like that. It was tailor-made for Finn Harps tonight It’s a derby match they haven’t won for so many years. They’ve got momentum from just coming up.
“I knew all these variables were there and getting that goal at that time was crucial.
“It’s hard to take but we have to look to the next game and be positive about and get ourselves built up for the Cork game.”
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Damien McNulty, Keith Cowan, Packie Mailey, Ciaron Coll; Sean Houston (Tony McNamee 19), Barry Molloy (Raymond Foy, 78), Gareth Harkin, David Scully, Adam Hanlon (Kevin McHugh 88); Ryan Curran; Subs Not Used - Richard Brush, Ethan Boyle, Liam Flatley, Michael Funston.
Derry City: Gerard Doherty; Niclas Vemmelund; Ryan McBride, Aaron Barry, Dean Jarvis; Gareth McGlynn (Ronan Curtis 71), Barry McNamee, Conor McCormack (Harry Monaghan 76), Aaron McEneff; Jordan Allen (Nathan Boyle 60), Rory Patterson; Subs Not Used - Shaun Patton, Keith Ward, Josh Daniels, Ryan Doherty.
Referee - Tomas Connolly.