Eamon Zayed scored the goal which earned Derry City a point against Shamrock Rovers at Tallaght Stadium on Monday night after a Gary McCabe header had put the league leaders ahead in the first half.
It was Derry City who provided the first attack of this game, breaking down the left in the opening seconds through James McClean. He twisted and turned his way into the Rovers box before being forced to lay the ball back to Danny Lafferty who skidded a shot across the six yard box and wide.
But this was a false omen as it was Shamrock Rovers who would utterly dominate the next half hour. Gary McCabe was in his element wide on the left, tormenting stand in full back Barry Molloy, and the Hoops central midfield trio of Ronan Finn, Stephen O’Donnell and Conor McCormack controlled the pace of the game.
McCabe might have punished Derry as early as the fifth minute when a Gary Twigg flick played him into acres of space but the young winger chose the wrong option and his floated cross to the far post came to nothing.
McCabe then played Karl Sheppard through the Derry back line on 17 minutes but the striker was chased down by Shane McEleney who did enough to pressurise him into a weak shot that was held by Doherty in the Derry goal.
With his side subjected to constant pressure, Stephen Kenny took remedial action on 24 minutes and withdrew Pat McEleney, introducing a natural full back in the shape of Eddie McCallion. One minute later the home team had taken the lead.
It came from a Pat Sullivan cross from the right which the diminutive McCabe rose to meet ahead of his marker. He connected while off balance, but his header looped over the outstretched Doherty and into the far top corner of the Derry net.
After the goal, or more to the point after the substitution, Derry looked far more comfortable. With Molloy now sitting in front of the back four the threat from Rovers receded and the visitors enjoyed far more possession of the ball.
McGlynn delivered a cross to the far post that was shuffled away by the Rovers defence, Kevin Deery failed to connect with a knock on by Zayed, and McGlynn fired over from 25 yards but they never really threatened Alan Mannus in the Rovers goal and the score remained 1-0 to the league leaders at the break.
The start of the second half also proved deceiving. It started at a hectic pace with Derry as committed to pressing the ball as Rovers had been in the first and within two minutes McCabe had thrashed a low lying shot inches wide of the Derry goal from 25 yards. Four minutes later and Eamon Zayed couldn’t quite connect with a deflected kevin Deery shot that dropped in front of him just eight yards from goal.
But the half soon descended into stalemate. Rovers looked suspiciously like a side that were happy with the status quo while Derry couldn’t muster the wherewithal to properly turn the table. Even the introduction of Billy Dennehy on 62 minutes couldn’t ignite the home side and two minutes later they were punished.
James McClean whipped in a corner from the right and Zayed rose to flick the ball inside the back post. It was a clinical finish and one that was deserved, if only as punishment for Rovers reluctance to press home the advantage they once held.
Rovers immediately created a counter attack as McCabe fed a low cross in for the sliding Gary Twigg who turned his effort wide of the near post. Another cross from McCabe on 70 minutes just eluded the inrushing figure of Dennehy and with seven minutes left a pile-driver from McCabe was just about batted away by Doherty. Yes, everything Rovers did came through McCabe, but it was not enough.
An altercation between Higgins and Sullivan on the half way line led to an altercation between the managers as tensions flared and the home support added to the pressure as frustration mounted in the stands.
But when the final whistle came the 1-1 scoreline stood as a fair refection of events. Rovers should probably have won this but didn’t do enough. Derry were probably the lesser team but took their chance when it mattered.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Pat Sullivan (Chris Turner, 75), Craig Sives, Dan Murray, Enda Stevens; Gary McCabe, Ronan Finn, Stephen O’Donnell (Stephen Rice, 69), Conor McCormack, Karl Sheppard (Billy Dennehy, 62); Gary Twigg.
Subs not used: Ryan Thompson, Ken Oman, Gary O’Neill, Ciaran Kilduff.
Bookings: Sullivan (60), McCormack (74), Turner (80).
Derry City: Ger Doherty; Barry Molloy, Stewart Greacen, Shane McEleney, Danny Lafferty; Gareth McGlynn, Ruaidhri Higgins, Pat McEleney (Eddie McCallion, 24), Kevin Deery, James McClean; Eamon Zayed.
Subs not used: Rory Kelly, Ryan McBride, Stephen McLaughlin, Ruairi Harkin, Michael McCrudden, David McDaid.
Bookings: Higgins (71).
Referee: Richie Winter.
Attendance: 3,200 (estimate).
extratime.ie Man of the Match: Gary McCabe by some distance.