Derry City lost for the first time this season when they were beaten by Shelbourne 1-0 in Tolka Park on Friday night.
Philly Hughes gave the Drumcondra-based club the vital lead in the 43rd minute and the win over Declan Devine’s men means that they now share top spot with Shamrock Rovers, Sligo Rover and St. Patrick’s Athletic.
Hughes has played for three clubs who longer play in the League of Ireland, Kilkenny City, Kildare County and Dublin City, but the 31 year-old has impressed with goal-scoring abilities this season. Friday night’s strike was his third in as many matches.
Derry fans will be disappointed at how their side performed against Shels and the way in which they conceded is certainly something that manager Declan Devine will want to avoid in the future.
After misjudging the bounce of the ball, Shane McEleney failed to recover in time to clear the danger and Hughes reacted brilliantly to fire a right foot shot past Derry goalkeeper Gerard Doherty.
Speaking to the Sunday Journal after the game, Derry City boss Declan Devine said that he was disappointed with the result but was quick to add that there “are no trophies handed out at the start of the season”.
“We certainly were not at our best tonight,” conceded Devine.
“I wasn’t happy at how we gave away what I think was a very soft goal but it’s up to us to learn from our mistakes and try to make sure that they don’t happen again.”
Devine’s woes were compounded in second half injury time when striker Rory Patterson was sent off after he received his second yellow card of the game.
Devine conceded that Patterson “deserved” to be booked for the first incident but questioned the referee’s judgement when he decided to send the player off in the 93rd minute after an incident involving Ian Ryan.
“I don’t want to undermine the authority of referees but I believe that Rory’s second yellow card was a bit over the top.
“Whilst I think Rory’s first yellow card was deserved I certainly don’t think that he deserved to be sent off. I suppose only time will tell who is right and who is wrong.”
Derry started the game brightly when the swept forward on the counter attack in the first minute only for Dean Delaney to deny David McDaid’s 25 yard shot.
But Derry were not consistent enough and it showed when two minutes later Paddy Kavanagh provided Conan Byrne with a fantastic chance to find the back of the net but the former Sporting Fingal player headed wide.
But Derry struck back when David McDaid rounded Delaney and squared the ball to Molloy. However, before the ball even reached the boot of the Derry midfielder, Andy Boyle got back in time to stop what looked like a certain goal.
Shels started to impose themselves on Derry and when Gareth Matthews released Byrne his low cross looked like it would be tucked away by Philip Hughes but Gerard Doherty reacted brilliantly and tipped the ball away from danger.
Doherty again did well to deny Kavanagh in the 27th minute when he raced out to meet the forward and smothered the ball at his feet.
Hughes gave Shels the lead in 43rd minute but just after the restart Derry City claimed that Patrick McEleney’s long range shot crossed the line.
McEleney’s shot rebounded down into the mouth of the goal off the crossbar but the goal was not given.
Next up for Derry City is Linfield in the second leg of the Setanta Sports Cup quarter-final at the Brandywell on Tuesday night. Kick-off 7.45pm.
Shelbourne: Dean Delany; Gareth Matthews, Andy Boyle, Ian Ryan, Lorcan Fitzgerald; Brendan McGill (David Cassidy, 78), Glenn Cronin, Stephen Hurley, Paul Byrne (Anto Murphy, 68); Paddy Kavanagh, Philip Hughes (Philip Gorman, 83).
Derry City: Gerard Doherty; Simon Madden, Stewart Greacen, Shane McEleney (Ryan McBride, 70), Dermot McCaffrey; Patrick McEleney (Owen Morrison, 70), Barry Molloy, Ruaidhri Higgins, Stephen McLaughlin; David McDaid (Mark Farren, 66), Rory Patterson.
Referee: P Sutton (Clare).