Derry City’s winning start to the new Ulster Senior League season came to an abrupt end on Thursday night when they were well beaten by Letterkenny Rovers at Leckview Park.
Letterkenny Rovers 4
Derry City Reserves 0
Darren McElwaine scored all four goals, including a brilliant first half hat-trick, as Rovers eased to victory.
The win means Letterkenny move level on points with Derry at the top of the table and they will be joined on six points by Cockhill Celtic if they can beat Drumkeen United later today.
Going into Thursday night’s game, Derry had impressed in wins over Buncrana Hearts and Swilly Rovers. But they found Letterkenny a more difficult proposition and the warning signs were there very early in the contest with Mark Harkin twice going close.
The home side’s early pressure eventually paid off when on 26 minutes, Odhran McMacken’s wonderful cross from the right was headed goalwards by Harkin and McElwaine forced the ball home from close range.
Just after the half hour mark, McElwaine scored again. This time midfielder, Josh Mailey created the opening with a surging run from half way - his pass released McElwaine into the area and he cleverly slipped the ball past keeper Seamus Houghton.
The striker completed his hat-trick on the stroke of half time when he nodded a Jonathon Minnock corner in at the near post.
The young City side had offered little in the way of any goal threat in that first half, but after the break, they played much better. With Conor Harkin excellent in midfield, they enjoyed a number of good moments and Michael Duffy, Ciaran Villa and Ramelton’s Tony McNamee were all unlucky not to find the target.
Any hopes of a comeback were soon ended however, when McElwaine scored his fourth from the penalty spot after Mailey was fouled in the area by Caoimhin Bonner. But credit to Derry, they continued to play some quality football and substitutes Daryl Browne and the impressive Robbie Hume both tested James Gallagher near the end.
For Rovers, the performance and the clean-sheet will no doubt have pleased manager, Eamonn McConigley. Aside from goal-hero McElwaine, their best players included Josh Mailey, Conal McGonigle and Odhran McMacken.
Letterkenny Rovers: James Gallagher, Kieran Doherty, Jonathan Minnock, Conal McGonigle, Glenn Hamilton, Odhran McMacken, Jamie Doherty (Dan O’Donnell 81), Josh Mailey (Gareth Boyle 73), Darren McElwaine (Ryan Carlin 67), Mark Forker, Mark Harkin.
Derry City Reserves: Seamus Houghton, Cormac O’Brien, Shaun Curran, Caoimhin Bonner, Luke McGeehin, Ciaran Villa (Daryl Browne 60), Conor Harkin, Matthew Henry, Kevin Barr (Robbie Hume 45), Tony McNamee, Michael Duffy.
Referee: Donal McCafferty.