DERRY City stunned the Airtricity League in Tallaght Stadium last night as Declan Devine’s “Candy Stripes” recorded a sensational victory over Stephen Kenny’s Shamrock Rovers.
Stephen Bradley reports from Tallaght
And while the Brandywell club has never won the Setanta Sports Cup competition, they have every chance of achieving thta ambition given last night’s result in Dublin.
But it clearly was a controversial night and one Rovers will claim they were particularly hard done by.
A hotly disputed penalty followed by a sending-off presented Derry with an early advantage and one they eventually took full use of despite the fact that Davy McDaid actually had his spotkick saved by Rovers’ substitute keeper, Oscar Jansson.
But Patrick McEleney’s superlative second-half strike fashioned great confidence before “man of the match,” Derry’s 20-year-old centre-back, Ryan McBride, headed home a third goal to make it a comprehensive victory in front of a paltry attendance of 750!
With the semi-final second leg to come at the Brandywell next Monday night, the 3-0 victory should be enough against the reigning Setanta Cup champions.
Shamrock Rovers’ bad mood wasn’t helped when a strong handball claim against Derry’s Eddie McCallion, in the 78th minute, went unheeded, referee Alan Kelly suggesting that it was a case of ball to hand.
The first leg of this semi-final was just 13 minutes old when McEleney’s through ball slipped in both Mark Farren and David McDaid. Assistant referee, Marc Douglas, raised his flag just as Farren stopped in his tracks to avoid an offside decision.
In fact, the Rovers defence also seemed to stop but McDaid continued his run and as Rovers’ debutante keeper, Reyaad Pieterse, raced from his line, the Derry striker appeared to have been upended.
However, referee Kelly pointed to the spot and having insisted that there had been contact, flashed a red card at the Rovers’ custodian and the powers that be in Tallaght appeared to be stunned.
Jansson replaced Pieterse in goal, with strike, Daryl Kavanagh, sacrificed and while Jansson did superbly well to get a hand to McDaid’s spot-kick, the fully alert Kevin Deery played a captain’s role for Derry when he raced forward to guide the rebound into the net and the small band of Derry supporters began to make themselves heard
From there it only got worse for the 10 men of Rovers and for their manager and former Brandywell boss, Stephen Kenny, in his first meeting with his former club.
That said, it was going to be interesting how Derry would deal with their shock lead. They had to take advantage and they certainly did so with some intelligent play and sublime defending to return home with a comfortable cushion.
Their intent clear from the start as new boss, Devine, pressed into action the same side that frustrated Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds on Friday night There had been concerns about a number of City players but Devine wanted an experienced and settled side against the Premier Division champions.
However, full-back, Simon Madden had to withdraw having entered the game with a dead leg and that could prove difficult as the “Candy Stripes” now prepare for the visit of Dundalk this Friday night.
Kenny, in contrast, only started with three of the team that hammered Dundalk on Friday – Gary Twigg, Ronan Finn and Conor Powell – with a number of experienced players recalled, including Killian Brennan and Stephen Rice.
The red card and penalty clearly tilted the tie in Derry’s favour while McLaughlin was unlucky to flash an angled drive wide a minute before half-time, although Rice had a good effort saved on 37 minutes for Rovers.
Derry began the second half positively. Jansson had to be alert to acrobatically tip over a powerful, rising McLaughlin shot. But after playing a one-two McEleney delivered a second goal with a magnificent strike from outside the area to make it 2-0
Rovers kept going and Aaron Greene’s back post header was saved by Gerard Doherty before, on 68 minutes, Twigg almost added to his Friday hat-trick – only for Doherty to race out to stop him.
But the hosts were hit by a killer third five minutes from time when McBride rose to meet McEleney’s cross at close-range - and that really should be that.
Derry City - Gerard Doherty; Simon Madden (Michael Barr), Eddie McCallion, Ryan McBride, Dermot McCaffrey; David McDaid, Patrick McEleney, Barry Molloy, Kevin Deery, Stephen McLaughlin (Matthew Crossan); Mark Farren (Ryan Curran).
In the second semi-final Crusaders defeated Sligo Rovers 2-0 at Seaview.