In the 50th league meeting of Galway United and Derry City, it was the Tribesmen who came away with a vital 2-0 win at the Brandywell stadium on Friday evening.
The win signifies Galway United’s fourth league triumph at the Brandywell stadium in 24 attempts.
United were worthy winners and first half strikes from Padraic Cunningham and Jake Keegan pushed Tommy Dunne’s side up the table to within touching distance of opponents Derry City and Longford Town in 6th and 7th position respectively.
In attack, Padraic Cunningham’s work rate, honesty and endeavour embodied everything positive about United’s performance on the night. The willingness of the 18 year old Headford native troubled experienced Derry City centre-halves Ryan McBride and Shane McEleney.
Cunningham repaid Tommy Dunne’s faith in the 23rd minute when Ryan Connolly’s corner kick was flapped at by City netminder Ger Doherty. Cunningham came alive in the box and pounced on the loose ball, steering it home.
The hosts were shell-shocked and three minutes later, United compounded their misery. Connolly again, turned provider, zipping a fantastic free kick behind the Derry City defence and Jake Keegan timed his run perfectly, stealing a march, before heading powerfully past Ger Doherty into the far corner.
Ryan Connolly’s set pieces were troubling the hosts and on the half-hour mark, his in-swinging corner kick smashed off the crossbar and rolled out of play.
City looked to strike back through midfielder Philip Lowry, however his stinging effort from outside the box was straight at Connor Gleeson, who gathered the ball.
A little over ten minutes from half time, Ger Doherty, who had been struggling with a back injury, was replaced between the sticks by Shaun Patton.
Galway United had two penalty appeals turned away before half-time by referee Rob Rogers. The first, was for what looked like a Derry City handball, when a defender blocked down Gary Shanahan’s goal-bound effort. The second, looked a lot more clear-cut. Padraic Cunningham seemed to have stepped inside the Derry City defender, who slid and appeared to take man and ball.
In the second period, Derry City increased the tempo but United remained largely untroubled and looked menacing on the break away.
On the hour mark, United broke out of defence and Padraic Cunningham, who was the pivot of the Tribesmen’s attack, drove at goal with Derry City defenders in hot pursuit but he had little options to offload the ball. Electing to shoot from distance, the young forward drew a save from Derry City substitute ‘keeper Shaun Patton.
Mark Timlin switched from the left flank to the right, mid-way through the half and the former Ipswich winger cut in on his left foot before teeing up Barry McNamee, but he could only find the side netting.
In the 67th minute, an unfortunate collision occurred when substitute Derry City goalkeeper Shaun Patton came charging from his goal to clear the danger. Galway United winger Gary Shanahan was first to the ball, nodding it beyond the onrushing Patton, but the latter collided with Shanahan at full-tilt. As a result, both players were in need of treatment and had to be stretchered off. Match referee Rob Rogers then inexplicably awarded a free to Derry City, before booking captain Paul Sinnott, who had been airing legitimate grievances with the incredibly poor decision.
As both of Derry City’s goalkeepers had left the field with injuries, experienced striker Anthony Elding donned the goalkeeping gloves and jersey for the Candystripes for the final 20 minutes of the contest.
It wasn’t long before Elding was tested, as he batted away a long-range Jake Keegan effort unconventionally with his feet. Unbelievably, Elding then denied Padraic Cunningham in a one-on-one duel, getting down to save the youngster’s low effort.
Derry City almost pulled a goal back when Timlin’s cross evaded United’s defence and City striker Cillian Morrison rose highest to head at goal, but Gleeson was well placed to collect the ball.
Peter Hutton’s side carved out one final effort in injury-time when Philip Lowry glanced a Cillian Morrison header goal wards, but Gleeson remained untested as the effort rippled the outside of the side-netting. The full time whistle blew and United recorded a second consecutive clean sheet on the road.
Galway United will be hoping they can take their excellent form away from home back to Eamonn Deacy Park as the Tribesmen face a double-header against Bohemians at Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday, May 15th and Monday, May 18th. Both games kick-off at 7.45pm.
REFEREE: Rob Rogers.
DERRY CITY (4-4-2): Doherty © (Patton 35 – Curran 71), Kelly, McBride, McEleney, Barry; Daniels (Curtis 58), Lowry, McNamee, Timlin; Elding, Morrison.
UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Jarvis, Clucas, Boyle, Houston.
GALWAY UNITED (4-4-2): Gleeson; Raftery, Sinnott ©, Walsh, Horgan; Shanahan (O’Laoi 71), O’Leary, Connolly, Keegan; Curran, Cunningham.
UNUSED SUBSTITUTES: Winn (GK), McDonagh, Garcia, Oji, Cantwell.
SCORERS: Cunningham 23, Keegan 26.
BOOKINGS: Sinnott 69.
ATTENDANCE (ESTIMATE): 1000.