HUGH HARKIN reckons Derry City fans were treated to a glimpse of the future when teenage talent Rory Holden came off the bench to light up Maginn Park with a moment of individual brilliance to complete an emphatic victory over Sligo Rovers.
And Harkin, alongside youth coaches, John Quigg and Eddie Seydak will know all about Holden’s undoubted potential having watched him progress since joining the club as a slight 14 year-old (pictured in 2013) to mature into a ‘great asset to the club’.
There were doubts over how much of an impact the former Top of the Hill Celtic player would make given his height and stature.
But he’s defied the critics and has since broke into the first team under Kenny Shiels. And after impressing on his Europa League debut performances, he capped an unforgettable week by netting his first senior goal in some style.
And so Harkin was ‘absolutely delighted’ to see him weave his magic as he strut past three Sligo defenders before firing into the bottom corner of the net with his ‘weaker’ right foot to put the gloss on a terrific win five minutes from time.
“I’m absolutely delighted for him,” said Derry City’s assistant boss. “He’s played in both European ties and did well and to go on and score the goal he did and show the composure he did was excellent.
“He’s left footed and he scored with his right and for me it was the best goal of the day. There’ll be no one more delighted than John Quigg, Eddie Seydak and myself,” he added.
“He came in to us as a young kid at 14 and people thought he was a bit small, a bit light but he’s grew considerably since and what a player he’s going to be if he can keep progressing the way he has been.
“He’s a great kid and he’s patient because it’s hard to get into the midfield with Barry McNamee, Nicky Low and Aaron McEneff playing in there. He’s been patient and worked really, really hard but he’s going to be a great asset to the club.”
After crashing out of the Europa League four days previously, four goals and a clean sheet was exactly what the doctor ordered for Derry City’s European hangover. Controlling the game from the outset the Candy Stripes equalled their biggest win of the campaign so far as they held on to hopes of a return to European football next season with three points which closed the gap on fourth placed Shamrock Rovers to just a single point.
He came in to us as a young kid at 14 and people thought he was a bit small, a bit light but he’s grew considerably since and what a player he’s going to be if he can keep progressing the way he has been.Hugh Harkin
Successive defeats to Bray Wanderers and Cork City threatened to derail Derry’s hopes of clinching third spot but Harkin believes the impressive win over the Bit O’Red can reignite their season.
“I’m delighted with the way the team applied themselves, coming off the back of the European games,” said Harkin. “It was important that we started well and everyone, to a man, worked hard and put in a great shift. We didn’t really play badly in the games against Cork and Midtjylland, it’s just we were playing quality opposition. It was important we got the first goal today and Sligo had to change their system and come out a bit more.
“We’ve experienced it a lot this year where we’ve been dominant and failed to kill off teams and their keeper pulled off two or three great saves and we were thinking ‘here we go again’. But the boys showed great composure and we were delighted to deservedly go on and win 4-0. It gives us something to build on now going into the St Pat’s game. The boys know they’re well capable of string a few results together.”
A first half header from Lukas Schubert gave City a deserved lead but with Sligo stopper, Micheal Schlingermann in inspired form the game was still in the balance at the half-time break.
When Ronan Curtis added a second on the hour mark - his fourth goal in six games - the home lot were cruising.
Birthday boy, Aaron McEneff added a third from the penalty spot after Ben Doherty was brought crashing down inside the area by Kyle McFadden before Holden netted that fabulous solo effort to up the comfortable win.
Considering the Foylesiders were without regular defenders, Conor McDermott and Aaron Barry, Harkin was delighted with the manner of the win and the clean sheet as Kenny Shiels handed former Rangers and Partick Thistle centre half, Darren Cole his debut.
“We have been depleted in certain areas and have had to keep changing the team,” lamented Harkin. “Once we get our players back from injury we’ll have a bit of strength and depth on the bench and we can push on for the final third of the season.”