OPPOSITION WATCH: Derry City's star players

In a new piece on 'Between the Stripes, we will aim to bring you even more comprehensive match build up to go alongside our match previews with the introduction of 'opposition watch'. This article will examine our next opponents key players and more importantly what Longford may need to do to stop them. First up is this weekends surprise package in the league to date, Derry City. With the arrival of new manager Kenny Shiels, the former Kilmarnock boss spread his net beyond the League of Ireland in order to recruit new additions, while also bringing back some old favorites and that's where we will first look, as deadly striker Rory Patterson continues his prolific scoring record.

  • Name: Rory Patterson


  • Position: Striker
  • D.O.B: July 16, 1984   
  • 2016 appearances: 7
  • 2016 goals: 5 

Having played for twelve different senior clubs, even Patterson himself would find it hard not to justify the tag of "journeyman". However, Patterson's record of 66 goals in 100 appearances for the "Candystripes" shows the former FC United mans class and Longford's back four will have a major task on their hands with him this weekend. Five goals in just seven league games suggests the five-time capped Northern Ireland striker is almost unplayable on current form.

A physical target man, but with fantastic technical ability, many could argue that Patterson is right up there with Christy Fagan as the best striker in the country and given Longford's awful defensive record since the season began, it is hard to see Patterson hot streak coming to an end at City Calling Stadium on Saturday. The key to stopping the thirty-one-year-old striker will be cutting his supply line with the likes of Barry McNamee, Conor McCormack and Aaron McEneff in fine form at present.

  • Name: Barry McNamee    


  • Position: Central Midfield 
  • D.O.B: February 17, 1992
  • 2016 appearances: 7
  • 2016 goals: 1 

McNamee's magical performance in the 2012 FAI Cup final, as a relative novice to the game, still remains fresh in the memory and the twenty-four-year old midfielder appears to be recapturing that kind of form at present with his simple passing game a must see for followers of the domestic game. Given McNamee's undoubted potential, it's surprising that perhaps an overseas club hasn't taken a punt on the talented play-maker, but should Derry continue their current form and results right the way through 2016, the midfielder's audience is sure to increase and heads may start to turn.

As is often the case with young midfielders of McNamee's ilk, a lack of goals is the criticism often throw his way. Having played thirty-games for a struggling "Candystripes" side last season, McNamee only managed three goals, so the fact that the midfielder has already opened his account for 2016, with a goal away to the champions, makes for promising reading for manager Kenny Shiels.

Despite his small physical appearance, McNamee is well able to mix it with the big boys of this extremely physical league and with "De Town" lacking the presence of a strong tackler like Stephen Rice this season, the Derry man should not encounter too many problems in the battle for possession. If Tony Cousins charges allow McNamee the time and space that they gave to Cork City and Dundalk players in recent heavy defeats, expect City's number seven to run the show at "CCS".

  • Name: Ronan Curtis


  • Position: Striker 
  • D.OB: March 29, 1996
  • 2016 appearances: 7
  • 2016 goals: 2 

Some were writing City's obituaries following their opening day defeat to local rivals Finn Harps. Jordan Allen had a torrid time of things in Donegal that night and that was when Curtis was called up, it's safe to say the youngster hasn't looked back since. Derry and Curtis's recovery has been dramatic with the "Candystripes" going on to win five of their last six, while Curtis has bagged himself two goals in seven games.

For a player that was involved with the under-19's last season, Curtis has shown fantastic character by scoring in two massive games, with the winning goal against Cork City and the opening goal in the 3-0 demolition of Shamrock Rovers at the weekend.

Operating behind Patterson in a new look 4-2-3-1 formation this season, Curtis has shown an ability to get into key areas inside the eighteen-yard-box at the right time and Longford's deep lying midfielders such as Phillip Gannon will need to stick to Curtis like glue if they are to stop him adding to his total for 2016.

  • Name: Niclas Vemmelund


  • Position: Right back
  • D.OB: October 2, 1992
  • 2016 appearances: 7 
  • Clean sheets: 3 

One of the most interesting arrivals during the League of Ireland transfer market, Niclas Vemmelund has been in sensational form for his new side, with Kenny Shiels men keeping three clean sheets compared to Longford's solitary one on the opening night.  A former Denmark Under-19 international, Vemmelund arrived at the Brandywell following spells at Swedish side Brommapojkarna and Icelandic team Stjarnan. Upon his arrival to Derry, the defender was quick to state his lack of knowledge regarding Irish football and his desire to use this move as an opportunity to move to the English game. However, despite that lack of experience with Irish football, Vemmelund has settled instantly within the League of Ireland and looks as if he could be a shrewd piece of business.

A no nonsense defender, Vemmelund also combines that no risk defending mentality with a get forward at every opportunity mindset and that will mean Longford's left side may have their work cut out, with Kaleem Simon and Dan O'Reilly really struggling at this level so far this season. If Lee Duffy is to make his comeback, that may change the physicality levels of this Town side, while his pace and attacking power would greatly help Longford pin Vemmelund in.

  • Harry Monaghan 



  • Position: Central midfield 
  • D.OB: March 24, 1993
  • 2016 appearances: 7 
  • 2016 goals: 1

Signed from Stenhousemuir, Monaghan is yet another of the oversea recruits picked up by manager Kenny Shiels and the reviews have been top notch for the Glasgow born midfielder. Monaghan took the unusual, but admirable, decision to leave Scottish football to further his footballing education in Europe with Vikingur of Reykjavik in the Icelandic Premier Division. Trials with Falkirk, Livingston and English Conference side, Aldershot were to follow after Monaghan's departure from Iceland, while a move to Linfield in Northern Ireland fell through.

Linfield's lost is proving to be City's gain and the explosive midfield player will provide Longford's middle men with an extreme physical and technical test on Saturday night and you would imagine Tony Cousin's will be relying on the experience and guile of Kevin O'Connor to snuff the threat out.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:  Due to the immense class in the Derry City ranks, we could have gone into detail on several other City stars but honorable mentions must go to Conor McCormack, Aaron McEneff, Keith Ward and Nathan Boyle, who all have the potential to unlock a struggling Town defence.

Given City's incredible start to the season, pundits have begun to ask can Kenny Shiels lead his new side to the league title at the first attempt. While the class in this squad can be seen from this article, when you look at the squad as a whole, some may worry about a lack of depth should injuries take their toll as has happened with Longford. However, Kenny Shiels invested heavily in the sports science department at the Brandywell in pre-season in an attempt to reduce the number of muscle strains and niggling injuries throughout a long campaign, and early on it looks to be returning dividends.

Having scored five goals in stoppage time so far this season, two of those goals being winning ones, the immense physical condition of this Derry side can be seen by all, so should the "Candystripes" key players be available for the continuation of 2016, we wouldn't rule Shiels men out of the title race this season.