Dane Massey 79' -
Ciaran Fisher reports from Dalymount Park
Dane Massey's second half strike broke Derry City hearts on Valentine's Day as his goal proved the difference between the defending champions and a strong Derry City side at Oriel Park.
As can be expected from the first game of a season, it was slow to start, with the netminders busy collecting overhit through balls at both ends as the midfields recalibrated.
The first jolt of life came on ten minutes, when ferocious battling by Hoban on the edge of the box, saw him win possession and try to play Michael Duffy through. Duffy took a tumble and had the Oriel crowd baying for a penalty, but Dublin referee, Neil Doyle, waved appeals away.
Derry had two chances in quick succession near the 25-minute mark, which kept their travelling fans speculating they could get a result here. Tim Nielsen found space between the Dundalk centre-backs and poured forward. Dan Cleary reacted quickly and managed to block his menacing shot. Dundalk had scarcely time to reset when Jamie McDonagh ambled into the box from the wing and his shot rustled the side netting.
Imbued with confidence from this, Derry enjoyed a spell of dominance and played good football against the Lilywhites, but they didn’t capitalise on their possession with any further clear-cut chances. The home side grew into the game but followed the same pattern; lots of possession without much to get excited about in front of the goal.
The game needed something, and Michael Duffy is often a man to turn to in moments like that. After the half hour, he turned Danny Lupano – who to be fair, with Clifford marshalled Duffy well in the first half overall – inside out and waltzed into the box from the right, his cross looked destined for the incoming Sean Gannon at the back post, but Gannon couldn’t help it home.
Duffy provided the chance for the next audible gasp in the ground, when he tricked in and lobbed the ball over former Dundalk ‘keeper, Peter Cherrie, only for Ciaran Coll to nick it off the line.
The teams returned to the dressing rooms at the interval with the game still level. Dundalk, perhaps predictably, had the slightly better share of possession and chances but the visitors would have had lots to take heart from: they were threatening on the break and, when they did get their tails up, dangerous in their own right.
McCormack, Harkin and Clifford were industrious in midfield and made a good go of disjoining the champion’s efforts through the middle, for the first half at least. Tim Nilsen, Jamie McDonagh and Walter Figueira were lively going forward.
Dundalk came out of the blocks much hungrier looking in the second half. Daniel Kelly rattled the crossbar on 51 minutes when the ball spilled out to him from a corner. Minutes later, Kelly found himself nearly through on an open goal. He dashed forward with only Peter Cherrie to round. His first touch took the ball away from Cherrie, but also himself, allowing the Derry backs to come to the rescue.
At the other end, Jamie McDonagh produced a fine cross for Tim Nilsen to nod home from, but Gary Rogers managed to make a fine save low and left to palm away what looked like a certain goal.
By the hour mark, the game had upped the tempo. Dundalk surged forward. Camden Smith nearly getting on the scoresheet in his competitive Oriel debut, his shot from distance, through a crowded box, almost nestled into the top corner but Peter Cherrie, at full stretch, had other ideas.
Dundalk introduced Will Patching and Jordan Flores in the final quarter and the latter soon turned producer for the opening goal. As Dundalk turned the screw on their visitors, Duffy forced a corner. Flores stepped up and his laser guided cross found the compliant foot of left-back Dane Massey, who drilled it home at close range.
Derry restored to route one stuff in the dying phases, but it didn’t trouble the home side ultimately. The Oriel fans certainly the happier; three points and an overall dominant, if not impressive, display – but Derry can take solace from a strong showing and encouraging performances from their new arrivals.
Dundalk FC: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon, Andy Boyle, Daniel Cleary, Dane Massey; Chris Shields, Michael Duffy, Daniel Kelly (Sean Hoare 87), Greg Sloggett (Jordan Flores 72), Cammy Smith (Will Patching 75); Patrick Hoban
Subs not used: Aaron McCarey, Brian Gartland, Darragh Leahy, Lido Lotefa.
Derry City: Peter Cherrie; Ciaran Coll, Ciaron Harkin (Steven Mallon 83), Eoin Toal, Jamie McDonagh, Tim Nilsen, Walter Figuera (Adam Liddle 77), Conor Clifford (Jack Malone 64), Danny Lupano, Conor McCormack, Ally Gilchrist.
Subs not used: Nathan Gartside, Colm Horgan, Moussa Paul Bakayoko, Mark McChrystal,
Referee: Neil Doyle
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Andy Boyle (Dundalk)