Derry City continued their perfect start to the new season with a deserved 3-1 victory against a lacklustre Dundalk side at a packed Maginn Park on Monday night.
The Candystripes, fresh from their win at Shamrock Rovers on Friday, had to come from behind after Dane Massey’s header had put Dundalk ahead but the hosts hit back through Nathan Boyle on the stroke of half-time, before second half goals from Barry McNamee and Ryan McBride put an end the champions 100% record.
It was indeed Derry who created the first opening of the night after just three minutes when Ronan Curtis weaved his magic on the left flank before planting a delightful cross into the box, though Harry Monaghan steered the ball just wide of Gabriel Sava’s post.
Massey went close for the visitors on the quarter-hour mark when he connected to a John Mountney corner but Ger Doherty was on hand to produce an excellent stop from close range.
Dundalk took the lead from the resulting corner however, when Mountney again floated the ball into the path of Massey, who outjumped two Derry defenders and flashed his header into the far corner of the net past a stranded Doherty to score the first official League of Ireland goal at Maginn Park.
The hosts would’ve felt hard done by to find themselves behind at that point and McNamee perhaps should’ve done much better on the half-hour mark after beating the offside trap following a beautiful through ball from Aaron McEneff, but instead of shooting he elected to take the ball wide, allowing Paddy Barrett to clear the danger.
That missed opportunity almost proved costly as The Lilywhites went close to doubling their advantage minutes later when Barrett headed just wide from another Mountney corner before Patrick McEleney, who endured a frosty reception on his return to his former club, tried to catch out Doherty with an audacious effort.
Right on the stroke of half-time came the turning point of the match when Derry, out of nothing, managed to equalise when Boyle danced his way around Brian Gartland and Barrett before slotting the ball beyond a despairing Sava to score his third goal in as many games.
Dundalk squandered a great chance shortly after the restart when McEleney wriggled past Dean Jarvis but his superb cross from the right was headed wide by Ciaran Kilduff.
Maginn Park erupted with about 20 minutes to play when McEneff’s long range drive was unconvincingly parried by Sava and into the path of McNamee, who got in ahead of Gartland to poke the ball home and give Derry a deserved lead.
Much to their credit, Kenny Shiels' side didn’t sit back and Sava had to save from a powerful Boyle effort before Derry put the game beyond Dundalk’s grasp five minutes from time when McBride headed home Nicky Low’s corner from the right, with Sava again culpable.
Derry could have even added a fourth late on when McEneff’s ambitious effort almost caught out Sava, who fumbled the ball over the crossbar as The Candystripes made it three wins from three and have, over the past four days, highlighted that they are indeed a side to be taken very seriously this season.
Derry City: Ger Doherty; Scot Whiteside, Ryan McBride, Aaron Barry, Dean Jarvis; Nicky Low, Aaron McEneff, Harry Monaghan (Joshua Daniels 90), Ronan Curtis; Barry McNamee, Nathan Boyle (Mikhail Kennedy 90).
Subs not used: Eric Grimes, Alon Netzer, Ben Doherty, Mark Timlin, Rory Holden.
Booked: Harry Monaghan (46).
Dundalk: Gabriel Sava; Sean Gannon, Brian Gartland, Paddy Barrett, Dane Massey; John Mountney (Steven Kinsella 80), Conor Clifford, Robbie Benson, Michael Duffy (David McMillan 77); Patrick McEleney, Ciaran Kilduff (Thomas Stewart 61).
Subs not used: Gary Rogers, Niclas Vemmelund, Chris Shields, Jamie McGrath.
Booked: Ciaran Kilduff (33).
Referee: Paul McLaughlin.
Attendance: 1,500 (estimate)
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Aaron McEneff (Derry City)