IT’S BEEN a pretty good week for Derry City Football Club in more ways than one!
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
Back-to-back victories over Linfield (Setanta Cup) and Cork City have boosted confidence levels at the Brandywell and when one considers the fact that both wins were earned without the presence of leading striker, Rory Patterson, one starts to sit up and take notice.
And while Patterson has clearly hit the ground running in his first sojourn in the Airtricity League, flashes of brilliance from another Derry hitman have begun to illuminate the Lone Moor Road venue.
Mark Farren started both games and while he caused his fair share of problems against the “Blues,” his workrate, pace and persistence in front of goal reaped handsome rewards against Cork on Friday night.
Currently battling his way back to full-fitness, the 29-year-old is delighted at his progress during what has been a stop-start pre-season campaign but now that he’s back on the goal trail, the future is beginning to look particularly bright again.
Mark netted the game’s opening goal against Cork and with fellow Inishowen man, Stephen McLaughlin, adding a second within five minutes, Derry’s superiority had been rewarded.
Farren’s determination to close down the Cork City “back five” at every opportunity and his ability to play “off the shoulder” when skilfully turning defenders with his electrifying pace brought the Brandywell Faithful back to yester-year as the player exhibited flashes of his former self.
Having been to hell and back over the past few years, Mark has now moved on from lifesaving brain surgery in a Liverpool Hospital and now back in a Derry City jersey, Farren’s dream is continuing.
Now three goals shy of Liam Coyle’s record of 112 strikes for Derry, Mark is not overly concerned about equalling that record and, indeed, establishing a new total this season.
“Liam holds a great scoring record and while I realise I’m very close to matching his 112 goals, I’m not really concerned about that at the moment,” said the player following Friday night’s victory.
“For me at the moment, it’s all about enjoying being back playing football, that’s the priority. There’s no pressure on me and I’m just delighted to be back playing football at the Brandywell,” he added.
But having opened the scoring against Cork, the buzz has returned and now it’s a case of onwards and upwards for the Greencastle man.
“Hopefully, I will regain full fitness and get sharper and better as the season progresses. My confidence is back now that I’ve scored and it was nice to net my first goal of the season, that’s a monkey off my back,” he claimed.
Delighted to see Rory Patterson sign for the club during the close season, Farren agreed that there would be pressure on him to keep his place with David McDaid having also started the season on a high.
“As a striker there always is pressure on you to score, but I think at Derry there are goal threats throughout the team, so playing a part in setting-up goals can be just as important.
“To win matches against Linfield and Cork City in the one week was brilliant and the fact that I started both games makes those victories all the more special for me personally.”
Always at the centre of every scoring threat during the opening period, did he ever get the feeling that it was going to be another one of those nights?
“No,” he answered. “I always believe I will get a goal. I want to be at the centre of goalscoring chances and as long as I can keep working, keep making those runs into space, I’ll eventually get the breaks and that’s what happened against Cork.
“Barry Molloy played a superb ball through to me and I got the break I needed. It was good to score my first goal of the new season and I also think it was a good time for us to score, early in the second half. We were certainly up for it and it was clear we wanted a second goal just to make the match safe.
“We got that minutes later and I don’t think we ever really looked back,” he maintained.
Maintain First Team Place
Now that he’s back in goalscoring form, the challenge is to try and keep his first team place but he agreed that he still had work to do on his fitness levels.
“To be honest, I was delighted to get through both games given that they were just a few days apart. But now that I’m back I want to remain involved. As I’ve said, there’s no pressure, but I really am enjoying being back and it’s very important to me that I remain where I am now.
“My confidence is good now that I’ve scored, I feel sharper and now that I have scored a decent goal it’s about building on that.”
Returning to the Liam Coyle target, Farren insisted that reaching the 112 mark was not a major issue.
“It’s not been a major issue for me. It’s not something that dominates my mind every time I play and I think if I was to stand back and think about it, I would never score!
“I get on with it. I want to see Derry City winning matches and if I can play my part in that, be it by scoring or assisting others to score, then I’ll be very happy.
“As a striker I always want to score, but as a Derry City player I want to keep winning matches and as long as we can do that, I will be very, very happy,” continued Mark.
“Having returned to the group, Mark is delighted that the new management team of Declan Devine and Paul Hegarty had recaptured the camaraderie which has always existed in Derry City dressing rooms over recent years.
“To be back in the group has been great for me as I’m again involved with top players and exciting young players.
“I’m not going to predict that we will win the league title, but I firmly believe we will be up there challenging this season.
“Injuries and suspensions always remain a worry as we have a small squad, but the talent is certainly there and I think we have to focus on getting into Europe next season at the very least.
“But before we can even think that far ahead, we travel to Drogheda this Friday night and that will not be an easy game for us. They’ve done very well after a difficult start and I think we need everyone fit for next weekend’s game,” concluded the player.
Farren clearly was at the centre of Derry’s first half scoring chances but the cancellation of Stephen McLaughlin’s headed effort in the 17th minute raised quite a few eyebrows, referee Rob Rogers ruling the effort out for an alleged push on a defender.
Fantastic Last Ditch Tackle
Cork centre-half, Gavin Kavanagh produced a magnificent last ditch tackle on Farren to deny the striker when he burst clear.
And when Farren used his pace again to beat keeper, Marc McNulty in a race for possession, the striker failed to get power into his shot and Kavanagh blocked the goal-bound effort.
McLaughlin then brought the best out of McNulty with a superb shot which was parried by the keeper as Derry finished the half much the stronger.
Cork did have one chance on the break when Shane Horgan crashed an effort off the Derry crossbar, but that was about as good as it got for the visitors.
However, three minutes after the break Derry were rewarded for their persistence. And when Farren raced onto an incisive Barry Molloy pass, the Brandywell Faithful acknowledged his left-footed accurate strike from 16 yards.
Within another two minutes, Derry had doubled their lead due to an unfortunate goalkeeping howler by McNulty who appeared to misjudge a high ball in the 52nd minute. And that mistake saw McLaughlin bursting clean through on goal, the Clonmany lad gleefully volleying the ball into the unguarded net from close range for what was a fortuitous strike.
DERRY CITY – 4-2-3-1 - Gerard Doherty; Simon Madden, Stewart Greacen, Ryan McBride, Stephen McCaffrey; Patrick McEleney (Matthew Crossan, 76), Ruaidhri Higgins, Barry Molloy, Stephen McLaughlin (Brian McGroary, 88); Owen Morrison (David McDaid 56), Mark Farren. Subs. not used: Ferry, McCallion, Curran and McNamee.
CORK CITY – 4-4-2- McNulty; Turner, Kavanagh, Murray, Murphy; Horgan, Morrissey, Dunleavy, O’Connor (Healy, 61); O’Neill (Purcell, 61), Sullivan (Morrissey, 61).
REFEREE – Mr. Rob Rogers (Dublin).