THEY'VE done well from the sale of James McClean and Daniel Lafferty to English clubs, but the production line at Derry City seems to carry on producing top-class young talent, as a fresh-faced Derry side showed with an impressive 3-0 dismissal of Shamrock Rovers last night.
And Derry manager Declan Devine hailed the youngsters in the City side who effectively ended Rovers' reign as Setanta Cup holders with this first-leg semi-final win at Tallaght Stadium, with even Rovers boss Stephen Kenny admitting that it would take something "really extraordinary" for his side to overturn the 3-0 deficit in the second leg next week.
Derry came to Dublin with seven senior players absent through injury, but youngsters like Patrick McEleney, Stephen McLaughlin and Ryan McBride, as well as teenage subs such as Ryan Curran (son of Derry legend Paul) and Michael Barr all emerged with huge credit while question marks hang over some Rovers players after a sub-par home display, coming just a few days after a 5-1 league defeat by St Pats.
"That says a lot about our players," said Derry boss Devine, who outwitted his former mentor Kenny in the first meeting of the clubs since the latter quit Derry to take over at Rovers. We've taken a lot of flak in the last few weeks but we started last night with five players under 23 and finished with seven U23s. We're a new team, we lost five players from last year, we lost players who scored 54 goals between them for us last season, the likes of Eamon Zayed and James McClean and Daniel Lafferty.
"So we are a new, emerging team with young players and they deserve tremendous credit, I'm delighted for them.
"We want our young players to have belief and I'm sure that result last night will give them belief. This is a testimony to what we are doing as a club in bringing young players through. We believe in them and, to their credit, they stand up to be counted when needed."
Hoops fans directed their ire at referee Alan Kelly for the influence he had on the game, especially the early -- and questionable -- sending off for Rovers' keeper Reyaad Pieterse, the South African import who lasted only 13 minutes of his home debut before he was shown a straight red card for taking down David McDaid in the box.
Derry scored the opening goal from the penalty through Kevin Deery, adding more goals from Patrick McEleney -- who netted with a stunning long-range strike on 53 minutes -- and Ryan McBride on 83 minutes. "It's a bad result, we couldn't have seen ourselves losing 3-0 at home," said Kenny.
"We conceded goals from a penalty rebound and a set play, as well as a shot from 30 yards, so I am disappointed with the manner of the goals we conceded.
"The sending off early on changed the game. Reyaad feels there was no contact with David McDaid. I gave some players a chance last night and they didn't take it, so it's a set back for us," added Kenny.