WILL Patching's stunning first half strike was the pick of the bunch as Derry City put FAI Cup finalists St Patrick's Athletic to the sword at Brandywell to clinch runners-up spot.
Brandon Kavanagh gave the Candystripes the lead after 11 minutes to set the tone when he chested the ball into the net from close range after Patching's cross was headed goalwards by Cameron McJannet.
Patching doubled the lead with a piece of magic on 26 minutes as his left footed effort from 25 yards sailed pinto the top corner for his 11th goal of the season in all competitions, finishing the campaign as the club's leading goalscorer.
Substitute Jordan McEneff added a third with three minutes with a clinical strike from the edge of the penalty box just eight minutes after coming off the bench as Jon Daly's men waved the white flag in the race for second.And it should've been a lot more emphatic from the home side as Michael Duffy squandered a glorious chance from close range when Patching found him in space but the winger somehow sent his effort over the crossbar.
It mattered little in the end as Derry comfortably sealed a win which ensured second spot, Ruaidhri Higgins' troops finishing three points ahead of the Richmond Park outfit who go into that Aviva Stadium decider next Sunday off the back of two successive league defeats.It was Higgins' 50th league win as Derry manager and while he will be delighted with a winning finish, he will be intent on closing the gap on champions Shamrock Rovers next season having finished seven points adrift of the Dubliners in the end despite having aspirations of winning that elusive league title for much of the campaign.Mark Connolly should've opened the scoring after two minutes following a slick start from the home side when McMullan found him at the back post with a stunning delivery but the defender headed wide.
It was a high tempo opening from the Candystripes and they got their noses in front on 11 minutes from a short corner routine. Patching's cross was headed towards goal by McJannet and Brandon Kavanagh was well placed on the line to chest it into the net for his sixth of the campaign.
Derry doubled their lead on 26 minutes after a fine move on the left wing and when Ben Doherty found the feet of Patching, the Englishman sent a sublime left footed strike from 20 yards beyond Dean Lyness and into the far corner of the net for his 11th goal of the season.Brandon Kavanagh's heels were clipped on the edge of the penalty box by Ben McCormack after a lovely turn to open up space moments after that second goal. The midfielder stepped up to take the resultant free-kick and it was parried clear at full stretch by Lyness before Boyce screwed the rebound across goal and wide.Ben Doherty's inswinging corner kick from the right almost caught out Lyness at his near post but the Saints keeper did well to palm it clear of danger. Derry finished the half strongly and should've put the game to bed after a scintillating move involving Patching and McMullan with the latter finding Duffy inside the penalty area with a slide rule pass but the winger fired it wide of the target.Derry were firmly in the driving seat going in at the break and the Dubliners' thoughts will no doubt have been drifting towards that cup final date.The Inchicore men made a double substitutions at the start of the second half with Thijs Timmermans and David Norman replacing captain Joe Redmond and Anto Breslin and they began with more intent. Jason McClelland stung the hands of Brian Maher with a blistering strike.At the other end Doherty sent a dangerous cross into the six yard box but it was just taken off the toes of Duffy and put behind for a corner. From a quick counter attack McMullan crossed early into the box towards Duffy from the other side and John-Alan McGrath intercepted with a diving header which shaved the post and went behind for another corner kick with his keeper rooted to the spot.Patching skipped past Norman on the right wing and raced into the box before squaring the ball to Duffy but somehow the winger sent it over the crossbar from four yards with the goal at his mercy on 56 minutes.
Lyness came to his team's rescue once again on 69 minutes when McMullan found Patching on the penalty spot and his first time strike towards the bottom corner was turned away by the outstretched hand of the Saints keeper.McEneff was introduced as an 79th minute sub and within eight minutes he had the ball in the back of the net with a clinical strike from the edge of the box to stretch Derry's lead to three.Patching came so close to a fourth from a searching free-kick from the edge of the box but it nestled on the roof of the net.
Lyness denied McEneff a brace with the last action of the match as he got down well to save at the midfielder's feet on the six yard line but it was a comfortable win for City who ended their campaign on a winning note.
Derry City: Maher, Boyce, Connolly, McJannet (Todd 89), Doherty; Dummigan, P McEleney (McLaughlin 88), Patching; McMullan (O'Donnell 88), Duffy (Mullen 79), B Kavanagh (McEneff 79); Subs Not Used - Ryan, Coll, McGonigle, C. Kavanagh,
St Patrick's Athletic: Lyness; Curtis, Redmond (Timmermans h-t), McGrath, Breslin (Norman h-t); Nolan, McClelland, Forrester (Dodd 83), Mulraney (Melia 71); McCormack, Carty (Lonergan 67); Subs Not Used - Rogers, Doyle, Leavy., Murphy..
Referee: Mr Robert Harvey (Dublin).