Sean O’Connor was the hero for the home side with two exquisite goals. His first came on 38 minutes before Michael Rafter put Derry back on level terms from the penalty spot just after the restart but O’Connor pounced again for Rovers on 52 minutes to snatch the win.
It was Derry who had the first chance of the game with just three minutes on the clock when Barry McNamee put a slide-rule ball through to Paddy Kavanagh on the right of the box. However Kavanagh was left with a tricky angle to shoot from and his effort failed to trouble Richard Brush in the Rovers goal, with the ball crashing into the side netting.
Rovers then felt hard done by on six minutes when appeals for a penalty were waived away. Ronan Finn was bundled over in the penalty area by Derry’s Barry Molloy as both tussled for the ball and Rovers expected referee Padraigh Sutton to point to the penalty spot but Sutton saw nothing wrong with the challenge and instead awarded a goal kick to Derry.
Rovers began to dominate after that but try as they might, they initially found it difficult to convert any of their good possession into goalscoring chances. They did go close though on 34 minutes when Finn tried his luck with a low drive from the 25 yards out on the left but Derry goalkeeper Ger Doherty got down quickly to block at his near post.
The good work finally paid off for Rovers on 38 minutes when O’Connor put them into the lead with a brilliant volley. Derry had just cleared a Rovers attack when Conor Powell’s ball from the left wing back into the danger area wasn’t cleared properly by Molloy and it fell perfectly for O’Connor who struck a cracking left-footed effort from outside the box that gave Doherty no chance.
Having had the first scoring chance of the first half, Derry had the first chance of the second period, on 48 minutes, when McNamee had a free header in front of goal but, under no pressure, McNamee directed his header wide. Derry had started the second half in excellent form and deservedly got back on level terms moments later. Eoghan Osbourne was hacked down in the box by Billy Dennehy and from the resulting penalty Rafter send Brush the wrong way.
Rovers fought back immediately and were back in the lead on 52 minutes when Stephen Rice released O’Connor down the right. O’Connor darted down the wing before cutting in and smashing a thunderous curling shot with his left foot past the diving Doherty.
O’Connor then turned provider on the hour mark when he provided the assist to Dennehy but the Kerry man blasted his shot high over the top. O’Connor put another inviting ball in to Dennehy on 76 minutes at the culmination of a brilliant Rovers move that also involved Finn, but there was too much pace on O’Connor’s cross and the ball flashed across the goalmouth before the in-rushing Dennehy could connect with it and the chance was gone.
Finn could have made it three for Rovers on 86 minutes but hit the post from close range when he tried to tuck the ball between Doherty and his right-hand upright.
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Brush; Sullivan, Oman, Foran, Powell; O’Connor (McCabe 85 mins), Chambers (Robinson 64 mins), Finn, Rice, Dennehy; Zayed (Sheppard 58 mins).
DERRY CITY: Doherty; Madden, Greacen, McEleney, Osborne; Kavanagh (Griffin 78 mins), Higgins (Curran 72 mins), McNamee, Molloy, Duffy; Rafter (McDaid 64 mins).
Referee: P Sutton (Clare).