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Olly good start

Derry City Women 0-4 Cliftonville Ladies

Niamh Connolly bagged an opening night double as Cliftonville assumed early leadership of the Danske Bank Women’s Premiership with a 4-0 victory over Derry City at The Brandywell tonight.

Marissa Callaghan opened the scoring and Caitlin McGuinness marked her debut with a goal as the Reds got the new season off to an impressive start.

McGuinness was joined by fellow recent recruits Shona Davis and Louise McDaniel in the visitors’ starting XI but it was the familiar figure of Callaghan who had the game’s first chance, drawing a first minute save from Candystripes goalkeeper Clare Friel.

Callaghan and Chloe Orr would be denied by the home stopper until the Northern Ireland skipper broke the deadlock on 11 minutes when he seized on a raking pass from Toni-Leigh Finnegan before rounding Friel.

After Paula McGrory had gone close to drawing Derry level, McGuinness’ close-range finish made it 2-0 six minutes before the interval and she almost grabbed another just after the re-start after being teed up by sister Kirsty, who had been introduced from the bench at the break.

The Reds didn’t have long to wait before extending their advantage, though, with Connolly (main image) reacting quickly to convert Kirsty McGuinness’ inviting 50th minute cross.

She had her second on the hour when she bundled home from close range to make it 4-0 before Friel was called into action to deal with a long-range attempt from Megan Weatherall.

Connolly thought she’d completed her hat-trick on 71 minutes only for an offside flag to cut the celebrations short ahead of Kirsty McGuinness and McDaniel each threatening to get on the scoresheet.

Cliftonville came within inches of a fifth when Callaghan rattled the woodwork from distance and Friel reacted superbly to deal with Kirsty McGuinness’ follow-up while, at the other end, Rachel Norney made a fine stop from Caroline Gallagher to preserve her clean sheet.

Cliftonville: Norney, Weatherall, Davis (K McGuinness, 46 mins), White, Moran, Finnegan, Callaghan, McDaniel, Connolly (Montgomery, 75 mins), Orr, C McGuinness (McHenery, 66 mins). Unused subs: McConnell, McAuley.