DERRY CITY 4 FINN HARPS 0
BY CHRIS MCNULTY AT BRANDYWELL STADIUM
THIS game never seemed like it would end any other way.
The suffering for Finn Harps on derby day continues after a four-nil mauling at the hands of their great rivals, Derry City, on Friday night.
Two first-half goals by former Harps man Stephen McLaughlin set the Candystripes on their way to a routine win.
Rory Patterson scored a splendid third and the cake was iced by skipper Barry Molloy; City having the scoring complete by the time an hour of play had passed.
Before the in-form McLaughlin fired City in front with his 10th goal of the season, Harps had some purposeful attacks – but City were never in danger once they got the noses in front.
Harps’ cause wasn’t aided by a string of first-choice names being restricted to a watching brief in the Glentoran Stand.
On Thursday night at training, Shane McGinty became the latest Harps player to join the ever-growing list of absentees, with a knee injury keeping him to a substitute’s role, with Blain Curtis not in the frame having hobbled off seven days earlier against Waterford.
It was a patched-up and depleted Harps that took to the surface at the sun-kissed Lone Moor Road venue, with Fanad’s Paul McVeigh in for only his second start in Harps colours.
And it was McVeigh who had the first purposeful shot at either goal, when he forced Gerard Doherty into clawing a save in the eleventh minute after Shaun McGowan had burst away.
Aside from a brief few forays thereafter it was largely one-way traffic.
Gallagher did well to thwart Patterson in the 14th minute after he muscled his way past O’Hagan and the Harps ‘keeper was forced into action again by the City frontman in the 23rd minute after he’d raced onto Molloy’s pass.
In between those chances, Derry had the ball in the net, but Shane McEleney was deemed to have been offside when he tapped in after Gallagher could only parry a thunderous effort by Dermot McCaffery.
Paul Simon Tracey helped stem the red and white tide momentarily, but an enterprising effort with the outside of his right boot that had Doherty scrambling, was only marginally off cue – and for a brief second, the small pocket of Harps supporters at that end of the stand sensed a slice of luck.
City seemed the most likely to make a pounce and they edged ahead on 31 minutes.
When it came, it seemed inevitable, and it seemed inevitable, too, that it came from a set piece. Harps have had a troubled season in defending set pieces and just after the half-hour mark another was to be their undoing again.
Patrick McEleney’s corner found its way to the back post, where an unmarked Stephen McLaughlin was allowed to steer home from close range.
Ten minutes later, former Harps man McLaughlin doubled the City lead in some style.
There seemed little immediate danger when Owen Morrison linked up inside the ‘D’ with the Greencastle man. But the in-form winger delightfully teed himself up with a clever flick before unleashing a quite stunning volley that left Ciaran Gallagher with no chance.
Twelve minutes into the second-half, a delightful third by Patterson followed, the Strabane man delightfully floating the ball over Gallagher and into the net having been played in by a superb chipped pass by Morrison.
Derry were in cruise control by now and the added a fourth just before the hour mark, captain Barry Molloy stooping to get on the end of a cross by Ruaidhri Higgins and head home from close range.
McLaughlin had a chance to complete his hat-trick, but Gallagher saved from his header, while sub David McDaid was thwarted by a fine save from the Harps goalkeeper.
Further Harps blushes were spared again late on when Higgins crashed an effort against the crossbar. City finished with ten men as sub Mark Farren had to come off late in the day with a hamstring injury.
By then, the familiar feeling had long since set in for the visitors, as City strolled into round three.
Derry City: Gerard Doherty; Simon Madden, Shane McEleney, Ryan McBride, Dermot McCaffery; Patrick McEleney, Ruaidhri Higgins, Barry Molloy, Stephen McLaughlin; Owen Morrison, Rory Patterson. Subs: Mark Farren for P.McEleney (65 mins); Eddie McCallion for S.McEleney (71 mins); David McDaid for Patterson (74 mins).
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Thomas Bonner, Peter Hutton, Aaron O’Hagan, Ciaran Greene; Matt Harkin, Shaun McGowan, Thomas McBride, Ciaran Coll; Paul Simon Tracey; Paul McVeigh. Subs: Gary Merritt for Harkin (60 mins); Jordan Duffy for Tracey (71 mins).
Referee: Paul Tuite (Dublin).