Gary Twigg and Dessie Baker got the goals that sent Shamrock Rovers through to the semi-finals of the EA Sports Cup at the Brandywell on Tuesday night as Derry City just fell short despite a spirited come- back.
Derry started the game with a number of their younger players as Stephen Kenny sought to maintain focus on promotion to the Premier Division rather than Cup glory. But Adam Clarke, James Henry and Thomas McBride all took to their task with gusto and McBride in particular played with composure and elegance from the first whistle.
It took a while for the first chance to emerge in a half that was high on controlled passing play but short on penetration. On fifteen minutes Clarke curled a free into the Rovers box which was met by the combative Vinny Sweeney. His header, though accurate, was weak and Alan Mannus gathered easily.
McBride then demonstrated his intent with a crunching tackle on Rover’s captain Dan Murray which earned him the game’s first yellow card.
More chances came Derry’s way in the 23rd and 24th minutes as Farren and Clarke caused all sorts of problems in the Rovers defence. Even Eddie McCallion got in on the act driving in a shot from a McBride corner that was blocked and then cleared to safety.
On forty minutes Rovers might have had a penalty when Barry Molloy’s arm made contact with the ball inside the box but Dessie Baker’s only reward for his strenuous appeal was a yellow card.
Derry made two changes at half time bringing on Pat McEleney and Thomas McMonigle but within five minutes it was Rovers who had taken the lead. Sean O’Connor made a strong run down the right flank and crossed for Gary Twigg to direct the simplest of headers past Eugene Ferry in the Derry goal.
Only three minutes later and Derry should have been level. Mark Farren threaded his way past the Rovers defence only for a desperate Alan Mannus dive to up-end him. To the displeasure of the Brandywell faithful referee, Declan Hanney, saw nothing amiss.
But Derry were beginning to make progress, a Clarke cross caused considerable unease in the Rovers back-line and a Pat McEleney free almost put Vinny Sweeney in at the back post.
But it was Rovers who struck again. Straight from Sweeney’s narrow miss the ball was played directly through the middle where Dessie Baker latched onto ball, danced through the challenge of McMonigle and slammed the ball into the Derry net.
Rovers might even have had a third just a minute later when Twigg set up Baker, but his close range effort was superbly saved by Ferry.
Derry continued to press, looking for a way back. David McDaid came on for Clarke and along with the ever battling Sweeney and the threat of Mark Farren the Candystripes created a series of half chances.
Finally, with just six minutes to play Farren got on the end of a ball that was driven across the Rovers goal and only half cleared by Price, well placed on the line. He lifted his shot high into the net and the Brandywell roof lifted. For the final few minutes Derry stormed forwards desperately seeking the goal that would force extra time.
It never came. Rovers held out, edging their way through to the semi- finals and one step closer to Michael O’Neill’s first trophy for the Hoops.
Derry City: Eugene Ferry; Eddie McCallion, Mark Scoltock, Emmet Friars (Thomas McMonigle, HT), Darren Cassidy, James Henry (Pat McEleney, HT), Barry Molloy, Thomas McBride, Adam Clarke (David McDaid, 68); Vincent Sweeney, Mark Farren.
Subs not used: Rory Kelly, Darren Coyle
Bookings: McBride, Molloy.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Pat Flynn, Aiden Price, Dan Murray, Danny Murphy; Paddy Kavanagh (Sean O’Connor, 27), Stephen Bradley, Chris Turner, Ollie Cahill (Robert Bayly, 71); Dessie Baker (Thomas Stewart, 71), Gary Twigg.
Subs not used: Robert Duggan, Stephen Rice
Bookings: Baker, Flynn, Bradley.
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Barry Molloy.
Referee: Declan Hanney
Attendance: 1,000 (estimate).
Simon O'Gorman began reporting for Extratime in 2010. He remembers Milltown and Flower Lodge and, back in the mists of time, saw Diego Maradona play at Lansdowne Road. He now lives in Co Kildare and reports on Shamrock Rovers among others. Simon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org