Dane Massey gets champions Dundalk off to winning start at Oriel Park
Vinny Perth’s side took their time to make breakthrough against Derry City
Dane Massey celebrates scoring the winning goal in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division game against Derry City at Oriel Park. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Dundalk 1 Derry City 0
The last time Dundalk won their opening game of the campaign they went on to finish second in the table, so those supporters of a superstitious disposition might well have mixed feelings about the victory secured at Oriel Park on Friday night.
Vinny Perth will have been pleased, though, if only with the persistence his players showed as they chased a goal they should really have scored long before substitute Jordan Flores floated over a corner 11 minutes from time and Dane Massey turned it home with a first-time strike.
It somehow felt harsh on a Derry side who had never looked overawed by opponents they had matched more than once last season but they did still look a distant second best here at times. Greg Sloggett, in particular, impressed alongside Chris Shields on his debut for the hosts and most of the regulars chipped in well, even those who looked a little ring-rusty through spells of the first half.
City, to be fair, had started brightly with two of five new signings in Declan Devine’s starting line-up, Walter Figueira and Tim Nilsen, seeming to show early signs of the sort of understanding that will be required if they are to match the achievements of the prolific two strikers they have replaced.
The threat the pair posed sort of fizzled out as the opening half wore on, though. Nilsen still did enough here to suggest he will score goals this season, not least when he forced a tremendous stop from Gary Rogers with a second-half header intended to wrong-foot the goalkeeper. But it was the home side that came to exert more control over the proceedings as the night wore on and who created the lion’s share of the chances in what was an open and entertaining game.
Devine’s side showed plenty of spirit but to the evident consternation of their new captain, Conor McCormack, for extended spells they largely let the locals have things their own way in the 20 metres or so in front of their own area. Dundalk, though, took a long time to make them pay, with a mix of misplaced passes, near misses and last-ditch defending keeping things level until long after the home support had started to become anxious.
Peter Cherrie made a couple of fine saves but there were times when he should have been left helpless and at least one when he was. On that occasion an ill considered back pass by Conor Clifford was intercepted by Daniel Kelly but as he sought to turn in order to slip the ball home after slipping past the goalkeeper, McCormack materialised almost magically in order to save the day.
He looked perhaps the best of the visiting side’s close-season signings over the course of the 90 minutes but there would be no frustrating the champions in the end. After Kelly had hit the angle from distance and Pat Hoban had gone close numerous times, Massey made sure with his effort from the middle of a densely packed area.
To judge by the ovation at the end, the locals were not overly downcast about the bad omen.
DUNDALK: Rogers; Gannon, Cleary, Boyle, Massey; Sloggett (Flores, 72 mins), Shields; Kelly (Hoare, 87 mins), Smith (Patching, 75 mins), Duffy; Hoban.
DERRY CITY: Cherrie; Lupano, Toal, Gilchrist, Coll; McDonagh, McCormack, Clifford (Malone, 64 mins); Harkin (Mallon, 83 mins), Nilsen, Figueira (Liddle, 77 mins).
Referee: N Doyle (Dublin).