DECLAN Devine will face a major selection dilemma prior to next month’s FAI Cup final if last Saturday’s performance against Shamrock Rovers is anything to go by.
DAVE MAHER reports from Tallaght Stadium
The “Candy Stripes,” who have experienced an inconsistent season by their own high standards, produced what can only be described as a powerful performance against the current champions, Derry’s swift and accurate movement of the ball from the kick-off served to stun a lethargic Shamrock Rovers.
And the performance was all the more significant given that players of the calibre of Kevin Deery, Mark Farren, Patrick McEleney, David McDaid and Ryan McBride were not included in the starting line-up!
A window of opportunity, therefore, was opened to those players who stepped in and youngsters such as Barry McNamee and Marc Brolly certainly took advantage in the company of senior stalwarts Ger Doherty, Stewart Greacen, Barry Molloy and Rory Patterson, who all played starring roles in this shock demolition of Rovers.
The victory, which boosts Derry’s Setanta Cup qualification hopes for next season, also proved to be a body blow for Brian Laws’ side but the “Hoops” can have no complaints whatsoever.
Played in front of a small crowd which was boosted by several hundred German fans who arrived in Dublin for weekend, it proved an entertaining game for the visiting supporters, but Rovers fans will be far from happy with the eventual defeat.
Derry started brightly and their slick passing movements, plus a great confidence when in possession of the ball, knocked the “Hoops” for six during the early stages. In fact, the visitors opened the scoring after just six minutes when Rory Patterson burst free on the left after weaving his way past Pat Sullivan and his teasing cross was met by the head of Stephen McLaughlin whose downward effort beat Oscar Jansson in the Rovers goal from just outside the six-yards box.
Refusing to sit back, Derry then drove another nail into the Rovers coffin with a second goal as Patterson used his experience to great effect when securing a penalty as he attempted to round Rovers’ Swedish keeper Oscar Jansson inside the box.
Assistant referee, Mark Douglas, signalled for a foul and a penalty with Jansson picking up a yellow card. Patterson dusted himself down before dispatching the spot-kick into the net off the right-hand post.
Sensationally, it didn’t stop there as the “Candy Stripes” continued to move the ball around at pace and they caught Rovers cold at the start of the second half, Laws’ clearly frustrated as he watched from the Rovers dugout.
With just one minute gone in the second period, a superb through ball from his own half by McLaughlin played in skilful youngster, Barry McNamee, who had the confidence to take the ball forward and drive it beyond the reach of the advancing Jansson for Derry’s third goal and Rovers were in serious difficult.
In fact, Patterson squandered a glorious chance to make it 4-0 but his shot screamed over the bar when facing the Rovers keeper.
The home side huffed and puffed with a few second half headed efforts from Gary Twigg and Ciaran Kilduff but Derry seemed determined to kept a clean sheet with keeper, Doherty, always alert to any danger that came his way.
However, in injury time, Rovers’ substitute and former Derry City winger, Thomas Stewart, managed to pull a goal back for the home lot after a good run and shot low into the Derry net with Doherty rooted to the spot.
Derry boss, Declan Devine, was delighted with the performance which, he suggested, was close to his side’s best performance of the season to date.
“I’ve been saying this from the start of the season, when we have our full strength side available, we can be a match for any team in the Premier Division,” claimed the Brandywell boss.
“And while we left out players such as Patrick McEleney, Kevin Deery, David McDaid and Mark Farren, credit to the lads who came in as they attempt to stake a claim for a place in our FAI Cup Final squad,” he smiled.
“We played against a top class side and, as far as I’m concerned, were worthy winners on the night. This was our third match in a period of six days - two of which saw us travel to Dublin - and the way our players applied themselves on the night was excellent.
“It was a fantastic response, it was a convincing victory as we kept possession of the ball so well and passed Shamrock Rovers off the park. They played with two of the most deadly strikers in the league in Kilduff and Twigg but Stewart Greacen and Shane McEleney nullified that threat from the kick-off,” noted Devine.
“They had a full squad of players involved but we asked our players to show that qualifying for the FAI Cup final was not luck and prove that we can compete against the fashionable sides. We dominated the match and the only negative from the performance was conceding that late, late injury time consolation goal which was not fair given the performance of our defence on the night.
“We could have won by five or six goals to be honest, but it all comes down to the application of the players who had the courage to pass the ball and the hunger of our attacking players who constantly punished any mistakes Rovers made on the night,” claimed Devine.
SHAMROCK ROVERS - Oscar Jansson; Pat Sullivan, Craig Sives, Ken Oman, Conor Powell; Billy Dennehy (Aaron Greene, 55), Ronan Finn (Shane O’Connor, 27), Stephen Rice, Sean Gannon; Ciaran Kilduff, Gary Twigg (Thomas Stewart, 76). Subs not used - Reyaad Pieterse, Graham Gartland and Gary O’Neill.
DERRY CITY - Gerard Doherty; Simon Madden, Shane McEleney, Stewart Greacen, Dermot McCaffrey; Barry Molloy (Ryan McBride, 80), Ruaidhri Higgins; Stephen McLaughlin, Barry McNamee, Marc Brolly (David McDaid, 58); Rory Patterson (Conor Murphy, 73), Subs not used - Eugene Ferry, Kevin Deery and Ryan Curran.
REFEREE - Mr. Paul McLaughlin (Monaghan).