A second-half strike from Seamus Conneely maintained Galway United's unbeaten start to the season and moved the Tribesmen into third as they earned an eye-catching draw against Derry City at the Brandywell on Friday night. However, Conneely's equaliser was not enough to keep the Candystripes off the top as they leapfrogged Bohemians.
Derry looked on course for a fourth win in five games from early on as Thomas Stewart fired them in front just before the midway point of the first half. However, Galway, who have shown a steely determination under new boss Ian Foster, battled back bravely and levelled through Conneely's well-struck shot shortly after the half-time break. And, despite a late rally, Derry were unable to find another late winner as they missed the chance to go three points clear at the summit.
Galway started well and an early slip by Derry centre-half Mark McChrystal almost allowed winger Derek O’Brien in on goal. At the other end, a super move down Galway’s left involving Ger O’Brien and Gareth McGlynn broke down when Stewart miscontrolled in a promising position. Then, on 12 minutes, a poor clearance by 'keeper Barry Ryan fell to Sammy Morrow whose lay-off allowed the busy Liam Kearney to get a shot on goal, which Ryan was grateful to gather comfortably.
However, much worse was to follow for the Galway No1. A low cross from McGlynn on 21 minutes eluded everybody before falling to former Linfield hitman Stewart, whose slightly mis-hit shot was powerful enough to beat Ryan, who fumbled the ball into his net. It was not a pretty goal but it was a well deserved lead for a Derry side who were making all the running. Indeed, Derry looked likely to add to their advantage with Stewart, in particular, keen to dice with Galway’s high offside line, and the away side appeared relieved to go in at half time trailing by the minimum.
After such an accomplished display in the opening half, Derry were slow to get going following the resumption and were made to pay on 52 minutes. A corner broke to Galway full-back Conneely, who did well to keep his shot low and on target, the ball deflecting into the net off 'keeper Gerard Doherty, who possibly saw it late. The hosts could have re-established their lead within 60 seconds, however, Stewart mistimed a free header, before Morrow headed an even better opening wide two minutes later.
It was all Derry now with Ryan making up for his earlier error with saves from Kearney and Barry Molloy. The home side continued to press forward and their last chance came in the final minute, as new signing Tam McManus, whose international clearance came through just in time for the game, had a golden opportunity to make it a dream debut when he found himself with just the 'keeper to beat. However, Ryan easily cleared the striker's weak shot with his feet.
Galway’s only respite was through the impressive O'Brien, who gave his namesake Ger a few problems, including a well worked shot which Doherty was grateful to gather. Derry were battering Galway's rearguard throughout but there was to be no repeat of their late, late shows against Cork City and Shamrock Rovers. Still, the point, earned in arguably Derry's best performance of the season so far, proved enough to see Stephen Kenny's men go top as reigning champions Bohemians suffered a shock loss to Cork in Dublin.
Derry City: Gerard Doherty; Ger O'Brien, Mark McChrystal (Ruaidhri Higgins 90), Peter Hutton, Stephen Gray; Gareth McGlynn (James McClean 84), Ciaran Martyn, Barry Molloy, Liam Kearney (Tam McManus 74); Sammy Morrow, Thomas Stewart.
Subs not used: Pat Jennings (gk), Eddie McCallion.
Galway United: Barry Ryan; Seamus Conneely, Garry Breen, Shane Guthrie, Iarfhlaith Davoren; Jay O'Shea, Cian McBrien (David Cooke 60), Sean Kelly, Michael McGrath (Alan Murphy 76), Derek O'Brien; Vinny Faherty.
Subs not used: Ger Hanley (gk), Paul Sinnott, Mark O'Toole.
Referee: Richie Winter.