The 2022 League of Ireland Premier Division marks a rather unwanted silver anniversary for Derry City.
It’s now been 25 years since the Red and White Army got their hands on the trophy, but after a period of relative mediocrity – and that controversial demotion in 2009 – they seem to be bouncing back to better days.
At the time of writing, Ruaidhri Higgins’ side find themselves top of the Premier Division table… and to some tune, too. Unbeaten in eight matches, they have already built up a six-point cushion over nearest rivals Shamrock Rovers.
Jamie McGonigle and Will Patching have been in fine goalscoring form – the latter notched the winner in his employer’s 2-0 win at UCD last time out, but this is very much a team effort and one that Higgins has worked tirelessly to put together.
Will Patching 🤝 Set Pieces pic.twitter.com/3ctnO3SXxF
— Derry City FC (@derrycityfc) April 4, 2022
That made it two wins on the road for Derry in a matter of hours, and Higgins was naturally delighted with what he saw from his team. “It’s been two tough fixtures away from home in the last four days, and to pick up six points is great,” he admitted after the victory over UCD. “It’s been a great return, there’s a great spirit within the group.”
The marksman duo takes many of the headlines, but praise should be reserved for industrious youngster Brandon Kavanagh, the classy Cameron Dummigan and the dangerous Ronan Boyce.
For all the brilliance of their start to the campaign, it would still be something of a shock if the Candystripes were to maintain their form – wouldn’t it? We’ll perhaps find out more in the coming weeks, when Derry travel to take on St Patrick’s (April 29) and Shamrock Rovers (May 13), but for now at least their long-suffering faithful can enjoy something of a renaissance.
Clicking Into Gear
It feels almost as if it’s a case of when, not if, Shamrock Rovers get their act together.
Early season defeats to Derry and St Patrick’s have rather undermined the Hoops’ progress, but Stephen Bradley’s side – hoping to clinch a third consecutive League of Ireland title – are just starting to show their pedigree.
The 3-0 win over Finn Harps was expected but still convincing, and you suspect they will continue to improve as two-time PFAI Player of the Year Jack Byrne is reintegrated into the starting eleven.
🗣️ l ”The performances have been getting better and better. You can see we’re getting into our stride. We just need to keep going, keep building and keep getting three points on the board every week.”
Stephen Bradley reflects on last night’s 3-0 win at Finn Park 👇 pic.twitter.com/9noS0DHNCF
— Shamrock Rovers FC ☘️ (@ShamrockRovers) April 2, 2022
Bradley really does have an embarrassment of riches at his disposal. Alongside Byrne is another former PFAI Player of the Year in Richie Towell, while former Aston Villa trainee Graham Burke has already been amongst the goalscorers in 2022. The permanent signing of Rory Gaffney only serves to enhance the attacking options that Bradley is able to call upon.
Despite being six goals adrift of Derry, the bookmakers still make Shamrock their odds-on favourites to claim a third consecutive League of Ireland title, and when betting on sites like Space Casino you’ll be able to get a best price of 9/10 on that very eventuality.
The early signs are that those could well look like value odds come the end of the season in November. But Derry City may yet have something to say about that…