Longford Town enjoyed a dream return to the top flight after a four-year absence as goals from Dylan Grimes and Joe Gorman brought a deserved opening night victory over Derry City at Bishopsgate to put the midlanders top of the Premier Division table.

Longford manager Daire Doyle promised his side would be competitive from the get go and the midlanders were certainly that, carving Derry open to create a real chance from their first foray forward inside 90 seconds.

Latching onto a loose ball in midfield, Grimes worked a one-two with Rob Manley to give himself a clear sight of goal. But, with only Nathan Gartside to beat, the winger curled his right-footed effort agonisingly wide when he really should have scored.

Maintaining their positive start, Dean Byrne had a valid penalty shout ignored, when his cross appeared to strike the arm of Derry skipper Eoin Toal, before the home side's early enterprise was rewarded with a fine goal on nine minutes.

The ball was swept across field from a throw-in, with Manley helping it on to Grimes on the right flank.

Oozing confidence, Grimes skipped inside Danny Lafferty as if he wasn’t there. The backtracking Ciaron Harkin was then unable to block the low drive that found the far corner of the net through a crowded goalmouth.

David Parkhouse tries to get a shot away but is stopped by keeper Lee Stacey

Though being most affected by Covid, Derry manager Declan Devine spoke pre-season about finishing seventh last year simply not being good enough as he felt the team lacked the identity he wanted for it.

There was little early sign of improvement in that regard here as Longford continued to dominate with Derry struggling to match the home side’s intensity.

It was 27 minutes before the Candystripes threatened, Toal’s header from a Will Patching free kick deflected for a corner.

David Parkhouse should then have done better than power his header over from another Patching corner as Derry showed gradual improvement as the half progressed.

But it was Longford who might have doubled their lead on 43 minutes. 

Skipper Dean Zambra’s free kick was nodded down by Gorman for Aaron O’Driscoll to set up Byrne who blasted wide from just inside the area.

Within a minute, Longford keeper Lee Stacey had to make his only save of the night to parry, and then gather, a Parkhouse shot after Will Fitzgerald’s cross dropped invitingly for him.

As in the first half, Derry were on the back foot from the restart as Gartside was called on to make a terrific diving save from a Byrne drive two minutes in.

But the Derry keeper, called up this week to the Northern Ireland international squad, was culpable for Longford’s second goal on 72 minutes.

The 23-year-old could only parry a long-range free kick from Aodh Dervin into the path of Gorman who swept the loose ball home from close range.

It might have been 3-0 three minutes later; Dervin rattling the crossbar with an audacious 40-yard free kick.  

Longford Town: Lee Stacey; Karl Chambers (Joe Manley 73), Aaron O’Driscoll, Joe Gorman, Paddy Kirk; Aodh Dervin, Dean Zambra, Aaron Bolger (Aaron Dobbs 85); Dylan Grimes, Rob Manley (Aaron Robinson 85), Dean Byrne (Callum Thompson 63).

Derry City: Nathan Gartside; Darren Cole (Danny Lupano h-t), Eoin Toal, Ciaran Coll, Danny Lafferty; Will Patching, Cameron McJannet (Joe Thompson 81), Ciaron Harkin; Will Fitzgerald (Carolaan McLaughlin 80), David Parkhouse, James Akintunde (Jack Malone h-t).

Referee: Adriano Reale (Kildare).