Derry City lost the chance to go joint top of the Airtricity League Premier Division after a 2-1 defeat to an in-form Shamrock Rovers side on Friday night.
The Hoops opened the scoring in a game they dominated after 37 minutes with a stunning strike from Sean O'Connor. Derry drew level four minutes into the second half through a Michael Rafter penalty before O'Connor added a second on 52 minutes as the Hoops stay five points behind third placed Dundalk in the race for Europe.
Derry were looking to bounce back from a defeat by title rivals Dundalk last Friday and could well have taken the lead early on. A ball from Barry McNamee slipped through to former Hoop Patrick Kavanagh, who sliced his shot wide of Brush's post.
Ronan Finn has been the star performer for Shamrock Rovers this season and his cross was close to providing an opening for his side on 14 minutes. He clipped the ball into the six yard box and forced Simon Madden into a last ditch clearance with Billy Dennehy lurking menacingly behind him.
Dennehy went close 20 minutes in when a cross from O'Connor rebounded off Derry defender Stuart Greacen into the path of the Tralee man. He pulled at his shot, though, and failed to test Gerard Doherty.
The home side had the better chances in the first half hour and, when an O'Connor corner was met by James Chambers, they may well have broken the deadlock. Unfortunately for the Hoops and the ex Hamilton midfielder, he bulleted his header over from 10 yards.
The 17 times champions continued to dominate proceedings with Finn having his stinging low drive saved by Doherty when, for a moment, the keeper looked beaten. With 37 minutes on the clock, and with such pressure being put on Derry it was inevitable that Rovers would find an opening.
Justly it came in spectacular fashion when Finn miskicked the ball and Barry Molloy tamely headed it straight to O'Connor. The flying winger volleyed home from 25 yards giving Doherty no chance.
Rovers almost doubled their lead moments later. A cross from goal scorer O'Connor found the head of Ken Oman but his finish was not as clinical as the one disallowed in Bray last Friday and it could only find the side netting.
City seemed to have a new lease of life after half time. Eoghan Osborne's cross was headed into the air by Derek Foran and McNamee latched onto it, heading goal wards. But it ended up wide of a helpless hoops keeper.
Derry did find an equaliser four minutes into the second half. Michael Duffy broke down the left and made it to the end line before cutting the ball back into the area to Osborne. He was taken down by Dennehy and referee Padraigh Sutton pointed to the spot. Rafter smashed the ball down the middle sending Brush the wrong way to bring the Candystripes level.
Parity didn't last long for the visitors though. Just three minutes later Rovers regained their advantage. O'Connor was giving debutant Osborne a tough night defensively and that continued as the winger cut inside before curling the ball delightfully past Doherty.
Dennehy went close to adding a third for the hoops. A cross from Pat Sullivan falling to the winger, he volleyed over with Doherty bearing down on the former Cork City man.
O'Connor was the thorn in the Candystripes side all night. This time his corner was met by Oman whose header went dangerously towards goal and had it have gotten a flick it may have gone in. Instead it fell gratefully into the hands of Doherty, with substitute Karl Sheppard and Dennehy looking on despairingly.
Once again the Hoops were inches from a third in the 76th minute. O'Connor fizzed in a cross which Dennehy threw himself at but was unable to get what would have been a game deciding touch. Dennehy could have had a hatful and he spurned another opportunity with eight minutes remaining. A cross from Sheppard was met by an unmarked Dennehy, who headed back across goal with no green and white shirt in the area and Derry comfortably cleared.
Finn was impressive in the final third all game and he was almost rewarded with a goal just five minutes from time. A neat one two between himself and Sheppard slipped the Artane man in on goal, his effort rebounded off the post with Doherty.
With the vast experience in their rear guard it was no surprise that Trevor Croly's men held on for a vital three points in the quest for European football.
Shamrock Rovers: Richard Brush; Pat Sullivan, Derek Foran, Ken Oman, Conor Powell; James Chambers (Shane Robinson 63), Stephen Rice, Ronan Finn; Sean O'Connor (Gary McCabe 84), Billy Dennehy; Eamon Zayed (Karl Sheppard 57)
Subs not used: Conor Winn (GK), Jason McGuinness, Danny Ledwith, Mark Quigley.
Booked: O'Connor (23), Sullivan (66)
Derry City: Gerard Doherty; Simon Madden, Stuart Greacen, Shane McEleney, Eoghan Osborne; Patrick Kavanagh (Mark Griffin 78), Ruaidhri Higgins (Ryan Curran 71), Barry Molloy, Barry McNamee; Michael Duffy, Michael Rafter (David McDaid 63)
Subs not used: Eugene Ferry (GK), Ryan McBride, Tony McNamee.
Booked: Molloy (41), McEleney (44), McNamee (62)
Referee: Padraigh Sutton.
Man of the match: Sean O'Connor (Shamrock Rovers).