IF DERRY CITY seem to like life on the road then they surely must relish these visits to the capital.
The Candy Stripes were unbeaten in 14 away games last season - the best bar none - and they seem to have picked up exactly where they left off.
The club’s only three away defeats in 2016 came against teams from outside of Dublin, against Finn Harps (2-1), Cork City (2-1) and Dundalk (3-1) while they secured 12 points from 12 from their four visits to the Irish capital, not to mention victory over Bohs in the FAI Cup.
And now Kenny Shiels’ troops have taken a maximum six points from their opening two trips to Dublin in 2017, following a 4-1 opening day win over Bohemians at Dalymount and a hugely impressive 1-0 win over Shamrock Rovers on Friday night with 10 men.
They must be licking their lips at the prospect of meeting St Patrick’s Athletic at Richmond Park - the only other Dublin side in the division - but will have to wait until mid July for that fixture to come around.
“We’re just a modest wee country team and we’ll try and do our best on our trips to the capital,” was Shiels’ retort after Friday’s encouraging 1-0 win in south Dublin, the same scoreline from Derry’s last visit to the stadium last August.
I think we had six at the back at one time but we were prepared to do anything we could to get the three points. We just regrouped and stayed with one up top and sat back.Ryan McBride
Derry were unbeaten against Rovers last year but this season there was an air of expectancy surrounding Stephen Bradley’s side who had invested strongly and had been tipped to challenge the dominance of the big two.
With the presence of record Republic of Ireland goalscorer, Robbie Keane, who had been training with the team all week, the Hoops looked the real deal. They even had former Chelsea and Ireland star, Damien Duff placing the cones for the warm-up.
And with the arrival of the much lauded, Ronan Finn from Dundalk and the superb Ryan Connolly, Derry fans would no doubt have been happy to take a draw back to Foyleside.
However, after Friday night’s showing Derry certainly look favourites to hold off the advance of the Rovers revolution. Bradley’s outfit may possess plenty of talented individuals but they failed to penetrate City’s resilient rearguard.
The Hoops were restricted to shots from distance and only Brandon Miele’s free-kick called Gerard Doherty into action while Darren Meenan probably should have done better with his free header at the death with Derry down to 10 men.
Ryan McBride, who had rejected the advances of the Tallaght outfit before signing a new contract for his hometown club at the end of the 2015 season, played a captain’s role on the night.
His instinctive, poacher’s strike on 67 minutes proved decisive and although Lukas Schubert’s harsh dismissal four minutes later as he earned a second yellow card for time-wasting gave Rovers hope, Derry showed superb resilience and character to keep them at bay.
While Finn showed glimpses of his trickery and guile in the final third, Rovers resorted back to long aerial balls to front man Sean Boyd but the commanding central defensive partnership of McBride and Aaron Barry easily contained that particular threat.
And in the dying moments of the game as Rovers desperately looked for an equaliser with ex-Derry man Simon Madden proving the danger on the right wing, McBride insisted Derry were comfortably in control.
“It’s good to beat them down here,” said Derry’s match winner. “They’re supposed to be challenging for the title and I think we’ve played well here. It’s always hard to come down here. They’re a good side and they have great facilities and it’s a great club. So it’s a great result for us.”
It was McBride’s first goal since September 2015 and while he was delighted to help his team earn three valuable points, he was more content with the clean sheet.
“It was good to score but I’d take a clean sheet more than a goal. We played well. It was a good performance all round.”
Derry had to soak up the pressure in the final 20 minutes but McBride relished the challenge.
“We just had to keep clearing the ball in the end. I think we had six at the back at one time but we were prepared to do anything we could to get the three points. We just regrouped and stayed with one up top and sat back. The crosses into the box are our meat and drink - it was easy for us to just head them clear.
“I was surprised at Rovers when they got to within 25 yards they would try and pass it into the net whereas other teams would try and have a pop, so I was a bit surprised at that.
“I thought we played well and shuffled side to side very well. I think we dealt with them very well and it’s a great three points for us.”
Derry boss, Shiels was delighted with the ‘character’ and ‘togetherness’ shown by his side and singled out McBride and Barry for special praise.
“The captain was outstanding and I thought Aaron Barry was outstanding,” said Shiels. “The two of them missed the second half of last season and we still managed to push up into third.
“It was a real well organised performance. It was a game we dominated up until the sending off and then we had to have organisation over quality. My keeper, in the 90 minutes, didn’t have a significant shot to save which is testament to our organisation.”
Both Barry McNamee and Harry Monaghan had excellent chances to break the deadlock in the opening half but Shiels was delighted with hos his side emerged after the break despite that disappointment.
“We were disappointed in the changing room at half-time. We felt we should have been in front. When that happens, quite often you get punished. But we managed to get ourselves in front and missed another couple in the second half but I thought we had good control of the game.”