League Report: Derry City 2 - 1 Drogheda United

Pat Hoban scores his first goal for Derry City

Pat Hoban scores his first goal for Derry City Credit: John-Paul McGinley (ETPhotos)

Second-half strikes from Ronan Boyce and Derry debutant Pat Hoban got Derry City off to a winning start as they defeated Drogheda United 2-1 at the Brandywell.

After a goal-shy first half, Boyce opened the scoring immediately after the break with a left-footed effort.

Half-time substitute Ryan Brennan won a penalty before seeing it superbly saved by home goalkeeper Brian Maher.

Hoban doubled the Derry lead from close range. Evan Weir’s fantastic free-kick set up a dramatic finish, but the Candystripes deservedly took the three points.

Home manager Ruaidhrí Higgins opted for opening night continuity, his starting eleven only tweaked by two from their last game of 2023.

The duo out were the now-departed Brandon Kavanagh and injured club skipper Patrick McEleney.

Jordan McEneff, a scoring substitute in Derry’s last league game, and Hoban replaced them, with the latter’s former Dundalk teammate Daniel Kelly named among the substitutes.

Drogheda boss Kevin Doherty dished out five debuts to his starting team.

They comprised a new-look center-back partnership of Jack Keaney, sent off on his last visit here with UCD, and Hayden Cann. Former Derry man Oisín Gallagher also debuted alongside Zashim Bawa and forward Frantz Pierrot, making his first Premier Division appearance.

The first clear-cut chance arrived when Scot Paul McMullan recycled a corner, deviously delivering from the left flank, the ball met by captain Cameron McJannet, whose header drifted off target to the Brandywell crowd’s disappointment.

Drogheda threatened next as Pierrot’s pressing played in Zashim Bawa, the debutant shooting on sight but finding home goalkeeper Brian Maher in the way. Next to shoot was McMullan, cutting inside onto his right before curling straight at Andrew Wogan.

With halftime approaching, Mark Connolly thumped a header high as Derry probed for a breakthrough against Drogheda’s deep back five.

Yet, marshaled well by new defender Hayden Cann and co, Doherty’s side exited to the dressing rooms the happier of the two teams at the break, having held Derry at arm’s length for the first forty-five minutes.

With Pierrot on a booking, Drogheda made a change upfront over the break as Ryan Brennan came on in his place.

But no sooner had Brennan jogged on, Derry struck.

Duffy tenaciously won the ball on the left wing with Cann’s clearance finding Hoban on the edge of the box.

He shifted it sideways to advancing right-back Ronan Boyce, who moved onto his left foot before blasting an unstoppable strike past a stranded Wogan to send the home faithful into raptures.

Brennan, though, made his presence felt soon enough, going down after McJannet unwisely dangled a high boot inside the box, referee Damien MacGraith immediately pointing to the spot.

The substitute stepped up to take but saw his effort superbly repelled by Maher, who dived to his left to preserve his clean sheet in style.

That save proved crucial as twelve minutes later, Derry doubled their lead.

Patching sent a rasping shot goalwards which Wogan parried well but, ever the poacher, Hoban was first to the rebound, the provider turning scorer as he calmly tucked home from six yards out to open his goal account for the Candystripes.

Drogheda swiftly halved the deficit, however, Weir winning an attacking free kick before the defender sent a perfectly flighted, sublime strike into the top corner, Maher left helpless as the visitors sought a way back into the game.

Despite that goal, Drogheda struggled to create much from open play, as evidenced by an overhit Cann cross that Maher plucked from the air with ease.

Higgins then turned to his bench, introducing Kelly for a debut with the winger straight into action, flashing a low cross in which Duffy almost got onto.

The Boynesiders made life nervy for the home supporters without overly working Maher as six minutes were added on.

Derry managed the closing stages professionally, skippered home expertly by McJannet aerially, to see out an important opening-night victory, their fans no doubt delighted to see Hoban register a debut assist and goal.

Next up for Derry is a Saturday night trip to the Showgrounds to face Sligo Rovers. The night before, Drogheda is back at Weavers Park, hosting Waterford (both 7:45 pm kick-offs).

Derry City: Brian Maher; Ronan Boyce, Cameron McJannet ©, Mark Connolly (Shane McEleney 66), Ben Doherty (Ciaran Coll 81), Cameron Dummigan, Will Patching, Paul McMullan (Daniel Kelly 76), Jordan McEneff (Adam O’Reilly 76), Michael Duffy, Pat Hoban.

Subs not used: Tadgh Ryan (gk), Callum McCay, Daniel Mullen, Sean Patton, Sam Todd.

Booked: Paul McMullan (54)

Drogheda United: Andrew Wogan; Aaron McNally (Adam Foley 78), Evan Weir, Conor Kane, Hayden Cann, Jack Keaney, Darragh Markey, Gary Deegan ©, Zisham Bawa, Oisin Gallagher (Warren Davis 61), Frantz Pierrot (Ryan Brennan 46).

Subs not used: Jethren Barr (gk), Killian Cailloce, Matthew O’Brien, Andrew Quinn, Emre Topcu, David Webster.   

Booked: Frantz Pierrot (17), Evan Weir (52), Jack Keaney (71), Hayden Cann (81)  

Referee: Damien MacGraith

Attendance: 3,300

extratime.com player of the match: Pat Hoban (Derry City)