Patrick O Connor reports from Oriel Park
Dundalk gave departing club legend Chris Shields the perfect send off at Oriel Park on Friday night as they recorded a hard earned 2-1 win over Derry City and in so doing also leapfrogged the Candystripes into sixth position in the league table.
‘The end of an era’ was the refrain around Oriel Park as fans, staff, players and media all reflected on the significance of Shields, who wore the captain’s armband for the last time, leaving the club after nine and a half years’ service and 349 appearances.
He has signed a three-year deal with Linfield in the Northern Ireland Football League, a move that was signalled for some time.
The home side started the brighter of the two and had a number of half chances in the opening 30 minutes. Patrick McEleney, Pat Hoban and Sean Murray all had opportunities but were either wide of the target or else dealt with by Derry’s Northern Ireland under-21 International keeper Nathan Gartside.
They exerted a lot of pressure on the Derry backline throughout the opening half and it finally paid off in the 36th minute.
Michael Duffy made one of his trademark runs along the left touchline before cutting inside and getting a shot away, this shot was only parried into the pathway of Daniel Kelly by Garthside. The right winger gleefully accepted the chance and fired the ball into an empty net with the ‘keeper still on the ground.
Derry struggled in the midfield sector in the opening 45 minutes and the influence of Dundalk loanee Will Patching was clearly missed. His loan period had come to an end and he has now returned to Dundalk having contributed six goals and four assists during his time with the Candystripes.
Ruadhri Higgins’s side fell further behind early in the second half when Pat Hoban scored from the penalty spot. Dundalk had won a corner which Duffy took, as the ball bobbled around the box it came off the hand of substitute Darren Cole and referee Rob Harvey had no choice but the award the penalty and to issue a yellow card to Cole.
Derry’s response to that second goal was immediate however, they forced a corner on the hour mark and captain Eoin Toal powered a great header into the net to make it 2-1.
The visitors really piled on the pressure for the last 30 minutes. Joe Thompson in particular stepped forward to orchestrate most of Derry’s attacks but they were reliant on set pieces for most of their opportunities.
Their main striker James Akitunde worked hard throughout but he was usually double marked by Shields and his fellow centre back Andy Boyle with the result that Derry had very few goal scoring opportunities from open play, their other potential goal scorer David Parkhouse having been substituted at half time.
Dundalk manager Vinny Perth sensed the danger posed by the Candystripes in the second period and he utilised all five substitutes to bring fresh energy to the team and also to ensure that Chris Shields was able to captain a winning side at Oriel Park for the last time.
Frank Sinatra’s ‘I did it my way’ was played out over the tannoy as Shields did his lap of honour at the end, overall it was a good night for Dundalk and a great night for Shields.
Dundalk: Alessio Abibi; Darragh Leahy (Cameron Dummigan 75), Raivis Jurkovskis, Andy Boyle, Chris Shields (c), Patrick McEleney, Sam Stanton, Daniel Kelly (Han Jeongwoo 63), Sean Murray (Greg Slogget 63), Michael Duffy (Sonni Nattestad 89), Patrick Hoban (David McMillan 75)
Subs not used: Peter Cherrie (gk); Ole Erik Midtskogen, Val Adedokun. Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe.
Booked: Darragh Leahy (51), Patrick McEleney (80)
Derry City: Nathan Gartside; Eoin Toal©, Cameron McJannet, Daniel Lafferty, Ronan Boyce, David Parkhouse (Ciaran Coll 46), Joe Thompson, Jack Malone (Darren Cole 46), Ciaran Harkin (Patrick Ferry 81) William Fitzgerald, James Akintunde.
Subs not used: Jack Lemoigan (gk); Danny Lupano, Mark McChrystal, Caolan McGlaughlin, Brendan Barr, Michael Harris
Booked: Jack Malone (41), Daniel Lafferty (44), Darren Cole (56), Joe Thompson (80)
Referee: Rob Harvey
Extratime.com Player of the match: Joe Thompson (Derry City)