HAT-TRICK hero Ronan Hale paid tribute to the Derry City support for bringing the best out of him as the Candy Stripes marked their return to Brandywell Stadium in some style on Monday night.
The Belfast teenager netted his first senior goal when coming off the bench in the 6-1 defeat to Shamrock Rovers in Tallaght last Friday night, taking his consolation goal emphatically with a powerful strike.
And he announced himself to the home support three days later with a stunning Brandywell debut as he walked away with the match ball and the 'man of the match' award while writing himself into the Derry City history books.
His first goal of the night arrived on eight minutes as he latched onto a loose ball, took a touch inside the penalty area before rifling his right footed shot straight into the top corner of the net before wheeling away ecstatically towards the fans in the Southend Park Stand.
He went on to slot in his second on 69 minutes as he reacted quickest when Brendan Clarke parried Jack Doyle's shot and five minutes later, after being brought to ground in the penalty area, he dusted himself down before sending the Limerick keeper the wrong way to complete a memorable treble.
Afterwards he dedicated his goal haul to the Brandywell Faithful, claiming he 'owed' them a performance for their support on the night.
"That's my first senior hat-trick so I'm buzzing with that," said the striker who is on loan from Birmingham City. "The fans were brilliant, they edged us on the whole game and I'm thankful to them for keeping me going.
"I scored my first senior goal (against Shamrock Rovers) and I knew once I got my first goal I would keep going and tonight that showed as I got a hat-trick. I was enjoying it. I was getting on the ball and everything was falling right and happily I got my hat-trick.
Recalling his first goal - the first goal scored at the new multi-million pound stadium - Hale said he knew it was going into the net once he let fly.
"For the first goal I just looked up after McD's (Conor McDermott) smashing tackle and I seen the keeper off his line and just felt if I was to strike it, it was going to go in. And it went right into the stanchion. The emotions were flying and I just wanted to get over to those supporters. because they were brilliant from start to finish and I owed it them."
His grandfather is former Derry City striker, Danny Hale who lit up the Brandywell venue in the 1960s with his goalscoring exploits and Ronan is hoping he can emulate his success at the club.
"Myself and my brother knew when we came here we had big boots to fill and hopefully we can do that and try and match him. Hopefully we've put the marker down now and that's us ready to go again."