ST PAT’S paraded their title credentials for all to see by smashing one of their chief rivals with a devastating show of strength.
This was their sixth win in seven games, and their fourth on the spin, as new manager Jon Daly continues to work his magic.
The Saints’ transformation between this bank holiday and the last has been quite something.
A month ago, St Pat’s were sending out a Mayday after losing here to Sligo Rovers before parting ways with Tim Clancy the following day.
Fast forward to yet another sun-kissed long weekend and the home fans were on their feet, delivering a standing ovation for a team on the up.
Some of those giddy supporters even taunted Derry boss Ruaidhri Higgins with chants of ‘sacked in the morning’ as their evening unravelled at pace.
The victory sees St Pat’s move level with the second-placed Candystripes, although Derry do have a far superior goal difference.
Their climb up the table is all the more impressive considering they are operating without their preferred centre-backs Joe Redmond and Tom Grivosti through injury.
But Noah Lewis, signed this season but down the pecking order until returning out of necessity last week, and Jay McGrath have played key roles in the last two games.
Lewis scored a brace in Friday’s win over UCD and played well here, while McGrath scored the opener and then teed up Eoin Doyle for the second.
Chris Forrester provided the third, two minutes after Cian Kavanagh gave Derry a sliver of hope before Mark Doyle left fans crying out for five late on.
Before McGrath’s breakthrough, there had been little to separate the teams on a glorious evening in Inchicore.
Derry had better spells in the opening minutes but the Saints had plenty about them once they got motoring - and never looked back.
Holding midfielder Jamie Lennon set the tone, breaking up Candystripes attacks time and again and setting free those ahead of him.
But the opener was coming and Richmond Park erupted nine minutes before half-time when McGrath chanced his luck after latching onto a stray pass.
St Pat’s had put together a sweet, flowing move with intricate passes in Derry territory that had the Candystripes on the retreat.
One was misplaced, but McGrath stepped forward to gather the stray ball.
He took a touch and, with no clear outlet ahead of him and urged on by the supporters, he stepped forward - and kept going.
The 21-year-old - who has just been released by Coventry City - unleashed a thumping low shot as Cameron Dummigan closed him down, and it evaded Maher at full stretch.
Higgins had to inject some purpose back into his side and Michael Duffy made way for Ollie O’Neill at half-time.
And by the 53rd minute, Cameron McJannet, Jordan McEneff and former Saint Adam O’Reilly (replacing the injured Patrick McEleney) were all thrown into the mix.
They were tasked with turning the tide. But St Pat’s were having none of it - and there was clear water between themselves and Derry by the 62nd minute.
This time McGrath turned provider and, after expertly shielding the ball from McEneff in his own box, he pumped a ball up the line for Doyle.
The veteran striker had plenty to do but bore down on goal and curled a low ball past Maher and into the far corner.
Derry gave themselves a lifeline when Cian Kavanagh pulled one back two minutes later by slamming home in a crowded box.
But it was false hope as Forrester scored with a glancing header from a Thijs Timmermans’ corner two minutes after that.
And sub Mark Doyle completed the rout with an expert finish after Saints showed great tenacity in midfield to destroy a visiting move that was going nowhere fast.
Derry were broken at full-time and their players, having collected just one point from nine in their last three games, looked haunted by the experience.
St Pat’s, on the other hand, embarked on a lap of honour with the good time vibes surging through Richmond Park.
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