Fans’ fury over the top after Derry City’s opening day defeat

DECLAN DEVINE will secretly be delighted Derry City’s league clash against Shamrock Rovers has been postponed due to Nathan Gartside’s international call-up.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 10:07 am
Updated Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 10:08 am
It was straight back to the training ground for Declan Devine and his team as they reflect on what went wrong in Longford.

The Creggan man won’t say it publicly but, after an opening day disaster, he’ll be determined to use the next couple of weeks to analyse exactly what went wrong and rectify it before hosting Waterford on April 3rd.

Having been put to the sword against the league newcomers Longford at Bishopsgate, meeting a Rovers team desperate to get off the mark isn’t what the doctor ordered.

The flip side of that is the players have to wait that bit longer to get Saturday’s defeat out of their system but Devine will welcome more time to reflect on what went so horribly wrong in Longford.

The City boss insists he’s not about to press the panic button after just 90 minutes of football.

Despite the outcry from a section of fans on social media at the weekend, some ridiculously baying for blood, it’s important to remember this was only the first game of the season!

’Pathetic’. ‘Embarrassing’. ‘Shocking performance’. ‘No better than a Sunday Morning League team’. ‘Relegation fodder’. Those were just some of the comments describing Derry’s display doing the rounds on Facebook and Twitter after the game.

There exists a fear among some supporters that there will be a continuation of the form which almost led to a relegation battle at the tail-end of last season. But let’s not overreact to one shock defeat. Remember, there’s 35 league fixtures to go! Reserve judgement!

Devine has full faith in this group of players and there’s enough talent and experience in the team to come good.

Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk and Bohemians were expected to be nailed on to lead the title charge but all three teams failed to set the world alight on their respective opening nights. Who’s brave enough to write one of those teams off right now?

It’s only to be expected that there will be some rustiness during the opening few games, particularly with four new signings named in the starting line-up.

However, what angered fans so much was that Derry were out-worked, out-fought and out-witted by a Longford team who simply wanted it more.

And that desire to out-work your opponent and chase down lost causes should be the bare minimum required when you put on the Derry shirt. Collectively it was missing on Saturday.

Five year’s absence from the top flight will give you that hunger to prove you belong in the division but Longford so easily rolled over this Derry side and were on top in every department.

Devine admitted his team lacked aggression, intensity and creativity and they will need a significant improvement if they’re to get points on the board against Waterford.

It appears the City boss is still experimenting with his team and, based on Saturday night, I’m not sure if he knows what his best starting XI is right now.

One of the few positives from last season was the defensive partnership Eoin Toal and Cameron McJannet formed following Ally Gilchrist’s injury mid-season.

The former Stoke City man has been deployed in midfield during preseason but it was a shock to see him named alongside Ciaron Harkin when the team sheet came out at Bishopsgate.

Longford’s midfield were exceptional on the night with the tenacious Aodh Dervin covering every blade of grass. Dean Zambra marshalled the midfield superbly and with Aaron Bolger helping out from a more advanced role, the midlanders controlled the game.

The midfield battle was key but this was by no means the only area of the pitch where Derry lost the game.

McJannet didn’t do too much wrong in the middle of the park and Devine may have felt his presence in a key area would’ve given his side more of a physical or defensive presence. Or perhaps it was a move to accommodate Ciaran Coll and Danny Lafferty in the same side.

Regardless, it wasn’t effective and left Derry with little option but to go long at times as they lacked imagination and struggled to play through the middle or maintain possession.

Jack Malone and later Joe Thomson added more urgency, energy and an offensive outlet in the second half but by then the damage was done.

Afterwards Devine explained his team selection; “We have to have a physicality in the middle of the park and I thought McJannet did extremely well. He was excellent last week against Bohemians and played a couple of games there in pre-season. He’s the type of player who can play anywhere.

“We were easy to play against. We were so open and we lost the midfield battle.”

Ultimately it was two soft goals Derry conceded which cost them the match. The pacy Dylan Grimes was causing all sorts of problems for the Derry defence and he skipped past Lafferty all too easily for the opening goal.

For the second, Longford again showed more hunger and desire to feed off the scraps as Joe Gorman beat Toal to the ball when Nathan Gartside parried Dervin’s free-kick for the second goal.

This result could simply prove to be a fluke and a direct result of Longford’s energy, youthful exuberance, a delight at being back in the top flight and determination to prove they belong there. Indeed, goalscorer Gorman admitted Longford treated the game like a cup final.

As for Derry, this is a young side and Candy Stripes fans must get behind them when they need the support most.

Watching the players warm down on the pitch on Saturday night after the game they were clearly shell-shocked and will be determined to put it right as soon as possible.

And I wouldn’t be surprised to see the real Derry City turn up at Brandywell on Friday week to kick-start the 2021 campaign.