St Patrick’s Athletic 0 Derry City 4
Things fell apart quickly here; the centre never held. Billed as ‘top against third in the Premier Division,’ this was no meeting of equals in the race to dethrone Shamrock Rovers as Derry City filleted St Patrick’s Athletic down by the River Camac.
Rovers’ draw in Sligo leaves Ruaidhrí Higgins’ side three points clear as St Pat’s drop back into the pack. There’s clear daylight now between the big two and everyone else.
There’s a long summer ahead.
Systems, tactics and all the chatter that comes with two forensic coaches trying to outmanoeuvre each other went out the window on a warm evening in Richmond Park. St Pat’s manager Tim Clancy admitted in the build up that the club must unearth a midfielder of Alfie Lewis’s calibre, or lure the Englishman back to Dublin, and those words proved prophetic as Will Patching and Patrick McEleney waltzed through the hosts at will.
“We need more from youse in the second half!” yelled an angry local as the players went for a rest with St Pat’s reeling three-nil thanks to Matty Smith’s toe-poked opener and a brace by Jamie McGonigle.
Derry, looking every inch like title contenders, only needed four minutes to expose malfunctions in the St Pat’s rear-guard. Brandon Kavanagh spurned a shot to tee up Smith after the regal McEleney initiated the attack.
McGonigle could have bagged a hat-trick by the turn but his eighth minute strike was ruled offside, much to the chagrin of the Derry players. Patching also should have done better with his curled effort but St Pat’s goalkeeper Joseph Anang was under all sorts of hassle by sloppy back passing from Tom Grivosti and others.
The Higgins system lets opposing wing backs, Jack Scott and Anto Breslin, have all the space in the world but neither could capitalise, although Breslin did arrive at the back post to head Eoin Doyle’s lofted cross straight at Ireland Under-21 Brian Maher.
They had other half chances, with Darragh Burns typically lively at inside right, but Patching kept turning in acres of space to bear down on a ragged looking back three.
The second goal was always coming, and McGonigle profited from Patching toying with Adam O’Reilly before Smith’s ball across the six yard box was blasted to the net.
The third came just before the break. Again, McGonigle had a straight forward finish after Kavanagh’s slick pass tore Pat’s asunder.
Chris Forrester led St Pat’s desire to avoid a thumping but come the hour mark Patching bent the game to his will once more with a rolling assist for Dummigan to wallop the fourth off the post and past Anang.
It all stemmed from the absence of a holding midfielder to show when defender Joe Redmond was pressed high up the pitch.
It will not get any easier for the FAI Cup holders as Clancy has already signalled that veteran striker Doyle will need to have his minutes managed, having come from a gruelling campaign at Bolton Wanderers, and to make matters worse Ronan Coughlan was carried off late on.
By then all that could be heard was the Derry faithful clearing their throats before the long trek home, safe in the knowledge that Higgins is building something sustainable.
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC: Anang; Redmond, Grivosti, Bermingham; Scott, O’Reilly, Forrester, Breslin; Burns, King; Doyle. Subs: Coughlan for Scott (half-time), McClelland for King, Owolabi for Burns (both 64 mins), McCormack for Coughlan (83 mins).
DERRY CITY: Maher; McEleney, Toal, McJannet; Boyce, Dummigan, Kavanagh, Smith; Patching; McGonigle. Subs: Thomson for McEleney, McLaughlin for Kavanagh (both 69 mins), Akintunde for McGonigle (75 mins), Coll for Patching, Lafferty for Boyce (both 82 mins).
Referee: Robert Hennessy.