Dundalk 1 Derry City 0
THEY’VE signed players from England, Scotland and Serbia and encountered a Derry outfit with a posse of overseas recruits but it was an old reliable that got Dundalk over the line.
Dane Massey is one of the originals chasing a sixth title in seven seasons and the left back ensured that Vinny Perth’s side began their defence with a win.
They had to wait 79 minutes to break down a visiting side that acquitted themselves well.
Derry caused Dundalk problems last term and they entered this campaign in the familiar position of losing a player to the champions although at least Meathman Greg Sloggett was moving closer to home.
It’s a source of frustration to Candystripes followers that local lads Patrick McEleney and Michael Duffy are inspiring the Lilywhites to success, whereas Declan Devine has to look far and wide for options.
He fielded five newcomers, including Norwegian striker Tim Nilsen and Belgian defender Danny Lupano – a loan signing from Hull – who was tasked with shackling Duffy.
McEleney’s unavailability through injury was a factor in Dundalk fielding a new look engine room with skipper Chris Shields flanked by Sloggett and Scottish playmaker Cammy Smith.
The latter was well marshalled by Conor McCormack, the savvy midfielder from Louth who has never played for his local club.
A combination of defensive organisation and early season rustiness ensured the opening 45 was a forgettable stalemate.
Oriel Park hasn’t changed much over the winter, a thoroughly regrettable state of affairs, and a leading football feature of the venue remains.
If the away side can get close to Dundalk, they struggle to get any rhythm going on the artificial surface and they have no option but to mix it up and try to clip long passes. At half-time, they required a more effective plan and there was more activity in the 10 minutes after the restart than the entirety of the first half. Dan Kelly struck the bar with a thunderbolt before squandered another opening, while Smith wriggled clear to draw a stunning stop from his fellow Scot Peter Cherrie. Derry could have gone in front in the midst of the drama, though Gary Rogers kept out Nilsen’s header.
Dundalk worked the bench to try and turn the screw and Duffy began to get the better of the tiring Lupano. His endeavours forced the corner that was floated in by sub Jordan Flores with the unmarked Massey applying the crucial touch and then doubling down to help the hosts see it out.
DUNDALK– Rogers, Gannon, Cleary, Boyle, Massey; Shields, Sloggett (Flores 72); D Kelly (Hoare 87), C Smith (Patching 75), Duffy; Hoban
DERRY CITY – Cherrie, Lupano, Toal, Gilchrist, Coll; McCormack, Clifford (Malone 64); McDonagh, Harkin (Mallon 82), Figueira (Liddle 77); Nilsen
REF – N Doyle (Dublin)