A record of nine goals in 73 career appearances tells us that Jordan Flores is anything but a great goalscorer. A scorer of great goals, however? That is fast becoming undisputable. On an afternoon where Vinny Perth got to see his team in something resembling competitive action for the first time in four months, the most disappointing aspect of the match was that there was no supporters present to witness Flores’ latest humdinger in the flesh.
Just over ten minutes had passed in the second half, with Dundalk trailing Derry City by a Walter Figueria goal, when Flores picked the ball up in space around 30 yards from Peter Cherrie’s goal. The former Lilywhite will have stood and watched from afar as the likes of Richie Towell and Daryl Horgan fired in from every possible angle en route to the club’s first league title of the 21st century in 2014.
He repeated the trick here, but this time it was him that was beaten by a strike executed to perfection. Flores wasn’t closed down with anywhere near the kind intensity that Declan Devine will require, or expect, from his players once the season resumes in earnest. With time and space, Flores advanced and unleashed a left-foot piledriver that flew past Cherrie, who was beaten as soon as the lace met leather.
For Shamrock Rovers and Cork City, read Derry City. Much has changed since the post-Covid lockdown was enforced and then lifted. The fans were absent, bars empty and and the seats in the main stand were occupied by substitutes, not supporters. There was a drinks break – but only one, in the first half. Presumably the referee to halt play for a second after half time. No matter.
What hasn’t altered is Flores’ eye for a strike and his unerring ability to conjure the goods. He’s still human. Moments after striking, he ushered the impressive Stefan Colovic away and hit a free kick over the bar.
Derry City started brightly and hit the front inside ten minutes. A Gary Rogers clearance went for a throw and it was well worked by Figueira and trialist Jozsef Keaveny, a Leicester-born Republic of Ireland Under 17 international, who last played in Cyrpus with a familiar foe – AEK Larnaca. He held the ball up from the throw and a neat backheel bamboozled Dan Cleary. Figueira burst past Gannon and curled a shot across Rogers and inside the far post.
That goal was not indicative of what was to come. Derry rarely threatened again and Dundalk dominated for the 80 minutes that followed. Colovic failed to work Cherrie with a lobbed effort while Hoban had two half chances before the sprightly Michael Duffy set up Colovic who dragged wide.
Will Patching forced Cherrie into a fine save with a shot from distance. Darragh Leahy was caught off guard at the back post after Hoban flicked on a delivery from the right. Carlingford native Conor McCormack struggled to keep Duffy under wraps down that flank and Leahy’s proclivity to probe added to his workload. Flores, too, had a shot that was saved.
In line with social distancing the teams kept apart before and after the game and at the break too. Derry City had the whole dressing room areas under the main stand to themselves. The home team, as they do when training, used the relatively palatial surroundings of the Lilywhites Training Centre opposite.
Vinny Perth was joined only by John Gill, new recruit Alan Reynolds and physio Danny Miller in the dugout area. Have you heard the one about the defenders who have been social distancing from opposition attackers for months? We’ll avoid repeating here but Dundalk dominated the ball at Oriel with ease, even when the substitutions arrived in plentiful supply in the second half.
Leahy almost produced a memorable goal only be denied by Cherrie tipping over before the equaliser came from the more trusted left foot of Flores. Hoban then went close and then the substitutions became more frequent. It shouldn’t have effected the game much, given the number of players on the pitch with something to prove.
Having had no League of Ireland football to consume in four months, Dundalk fans can be forgiving for forgetting about some of the more recent arrivals. Josh Gatt, Nathan Oduwa, Will Patching and Greg Slogett all got minutes, alongside the Serb Colovic. Cameron Dummigan is also back from his loan spell at Crusaders.
Brought to the club by chairman Bill Hulsizer, he is a full United States international. He won two caps, the last of which was seven years ago. Those were while Gatt was at Molde, making 74 appearances and scoring 12 goals while winning three Tippeligaen titles under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
He has suffered two very bad knee injuries in his career, but now at 28-years-old, he’s an intriguing prospect. Late on, he showed a flash of hi ability, by bursting past two Derry players on the left and digging out a cross that Georgie Kelly couldn’t reach.
Dundalk will host Bohemians on Tuesday night. These three, plus Shamrock Rovers have been training for five weeks now and will all be hoping to see that physical advantage manifest itself in results once the league season resumes in three weeks. With just two rounds left to play, there is little margin for error at either end of the table.
Truncated season or not, the Lilywhites are only looking up.
DUNDALK FC: Gary Rogers; Sean Gannon (Cameron Dummigan), Daniel Cleary, Andy Boyle, Darragh Leahy (Dane Massey); Chris Shields (Greg Slogett), Jordan Flores (Josh Gatt); Stefan Colovic (Dan Kelly), Will Patching (John Mountney), Michael Duffy (Nathan Oduwa); Patrick Hoban (Georgie Kelly).
Substitutes Not Used: Aaron McCarey, Andrew Quinn, Lido Lotefa, Jimmy Corcoran.
DERRY FC: Peter Cherrie, Conor McCormack, Ally Gilchrist, Eoin Toal, Ciaran Coll, Joe Thomson, Conor Clifford, Jack Malone, Ciaron Harkin, Walter Figueira, Josef Keaveny.
Substitutes: Nathan Gartside, Colm Horgan, Gerardo Bruna, Mark McChrystal, Michael Harris, Patrick Ferry, Lifumpa Mwande, Ronan Boyce.