DERRY CITY 4 FINN HARPS 0
BY CHRIS MCNULTY AT BRANDYWELL STADIUM
FINN Harps’ League Cup challenge is over for another year as their dreadful derby record with Derry City continued on Monday afternoon.
City made light work of the Harps challenge as the Candystripes continued their love affair with the League Cup by taking full advantage of some poor Harps defending.
Three first-half goals, two of them in stoppage time, had Declan Devine’s men home and hosed by the break, with a brace by returned captain Barry Molloy sealing a comfortable passage at the expense of their derby rivals.
Already leading thanks to a clinical Molloy strike in the 37th minute, Derry went goal crazy late in the half.
In the first minute of added-on time, Patrick McEleney doubled the advantage as he shot home after bursting in from the left flank.
And then Mark Farren steered home from close range with a strike that had a hint of offside about it.
The goal stood, though, taking the Greencastle striker to within two goals of Liam Coyle’s record of 112 goals for Derry.
“I’m trying not to think about it too much,” Farren said afterwards. “I’m just trying to get the goals and work on my fitness. When you play games you get fitter and fitter. That’s my third game now and I’ll get fitter by playing. Hopefully I can stay in the team and get the goals to get the results.”
The brace of late strikes was harsh on Harps, but an expensive lesson in the old art of taking chances for the Donegal outfit, who had competed well up to the opener from Molloy, who headed home City’s fourth in the 86th minute.
That opening strike by the midfielder paved the way for a comfortable win for the Candystripes as they punished lethally the holes in a Harps rearguard that was without player-manager Peter Hutton, a surprise omission on his return to a ground at which he holds legendary status.
Hutton returned to the team for the previous round win over the Mayo League and, since, Harps had kept three clean sheets on the spin.
“There was a crazy five-minute period with the goals that seemed to knock us back,” observed Felix Healy, the Harps Director of Football.
“We kept three clean sheets in a row when Peter Hutton was in. That is no coincidence. Concentration cost us.”
Rookie goalkeeper Shaun Patton was again between the sticks for Harps and the 16-year old Letterkenny lad was forced to come to punch to safety after a sliced clearance by Tracey brought a scare for the visitors.
Farren should have fired City ahead in the 18th minute, but he blazed wastefully over from close-range after a McEleney free was nodded into his path.
Harps weren’t without openings of their own, though, as they sought to arrest a wretched sequence of results against their neighbours. City have practically had ownership of the League Cup, the current holders having won five of the last seven, but with the more pressing matter of another derby, against Sligo Rovers, to come this weekend, Declan Devine posted seven alterations to his team.
Only Eddie McCallion, Patrick McEleney, Simon Madden and Mark Farren survived from the scoreless home draw with UCD on Friday.
Without creating a clear-cut chance in the first-half, Harps still had their moments, though there was a prevailing sense of the inevitable when City edged ahead in the 37th minute. Farren made the play, scampering forward, rounding Patton and, with Harps getting bodies back, cut back for Molloy, who steered emphatically into the roof of the net.
Stephen McLaughlin, a 24th minute introduction for the injured Owen Morrison, had gone close moments earlier, while McEleney flashed wide as City began to turn the screw.
The madcap ending to the first-half, with Derry bagging two goals inside a minute of stoppage time, had the deal sealed at the break, capitalising perfectly on some erratic defending by the visitors, who withdrew captain McHugh at the break.
“They were a high standard of goals, especially Barry Molloy’s,” said Derry manager Declan Devine.
“Technically that was a very good goal and Patrick McEleney smacked a fantastic one too. I was disappointed at half-time in that I felt we had two or three good chances early on that we didn’t take. If we’d taken those it would have been more convincing. We took four, but on another day we could have had more.”
Their industrious finish to the first-half already had Derry eyeing up the next round but, just for good measure, Molloy thundered a header past Patton after connecting with Matthew Crossan’s inswinging corner four minutes from time.
It ensured that it was another lonely trip to the Lone Moor Road for Harps, whose derby day despair continues as City keep up their dominance of this fixture.
Derry City: Eugene Ferry; Simon Madden, Eddie McCallion, Ryan McBride, Matthew Crossan; Patrick McEleney, Barry Molloy, Owen Morrison, Brian McGroary; Mark Farren, David McDaid. Subs: Stephen McLaughlin for Morrison (24 mins); Ryan Curran for McLaughlin (72 mins); Barry McNamee for Farren (74 mins).
Finn Harps: Shaun Patton; James Doherty, Aaron O’Hagan, Thomas McMonagle, Ciaran Coll; Adam Clarke, Thomas McBride, Shaun McGowan, Paul Simon Tracey; Blain Curtis, Kevin McHugh. Subs: Barry O’Mahony for McHugh (half-time); Matthew Harkin for Clarke (53 mins); Hugh Carlin for Doherty (74 mins).
Referee: Tom Connolly (Dublin).