Shamrock Rovers and Derry City will have to do it all again in the Ford FAI Cup at the Brandywell tomorrow night — and hopefully will do it better than this, a largely drab affair in Tallaght enlivened by late drama which saw the Candystripes first equalise and then almost win the game in the dying moments.
“It probably wasn’t pretty for the neutral,” conceded Derry boss Peter Hutton, who nevertheless said he was pleased with the “resilience and character” of the players which saw Rory Patterson’s 87th-minute header cancel out Dean Kelly’s goal for Rovers.
For his part, Rovers manager Pat Fenlon was disappointed that his team couldn’t see out the game.
“But it was a decent performance and we’ll just have to go and do it the hard way in Derry, like we did in Dundalk,” he said.
Where the Hoops lacked penetration, Derry were showing how to make more of less possession, Patrick McEleney and Barry McNamee always seeking the creative pass and Duffy again extracting a save from Murphy in the 20th minute, stretching to get a toe-poked shot away inside the box after being put in by Rory Patterson.
By far the busier of the two keepers, Murphy had to show safe hands again 15 minutes later when diving to hold McEleney’s curling free-kick.
By contrast, Rovers’ play was becoming more ragged, Pat Fenlon looking increasingly frustrated on the touchline as the Hoops struggled to create any kind of fluency.
Sheppard did get his head to a Patrick Cregg free just before the break but, summing up Rovers’ toothless approach in the first half, the striker’s effort bounced harmlessly into the hands of Ger Doherty.
Rovers began the second half firmly on the front foot but no Hooped shirt could get on the end of Stephen McPhail’s dangerous low ball across the face of the Derry box.
Ryan Brennan then fired one just over the top from distance as the home side kept up the pressure but, after Derry had weathered the mini-storm, Fenlon sought to add more bite to his team’s attack, sending Dean Kelly on for Karl Sheppard just past the hour mark.
And in the 78th minute the substitute got the breakthrough. Ronan Finn, by some distance Rovers’ best player, showed a neat touch to send the ball out wide to Simon Madden and when his cross into the box fell kindly for Kelly after a poor touch by Philip Lowry, the striker’s shot on the turn had too much power for Doherty, even though the veteran keeper got plenty behind the ball.
Derry, whose lack of ambition in the second period suggested they might be content to take the game to the Brandywell, now had a little over 10 minutes in which to fight for their cup lives as the stadium rocked to the celebrations of the home support.
But three minutes from time, Rory Patterson stunned Tallaght into silence as the Hoops defence were caught flat-footed as he stooped to direct a glancing header inside the far post from a Michael Duffy corner.
Right on the stroke of time, Duffy then looked certain to complete the turnaround after terrific work by Patterson to find him unmarked in the box, but Murphy pulled off a magnificent close-range save to keep Rovers in the cup and send the tie to a replay in Derry tomorrow.
SHAMROCK ROVERS: Murphy, Madden, Kenna, McGuinness, D O’Connor, Cregg, McPhail, Finn, Brennan (Waters 74), S O’Connor (Gary McCabe 84), Sheppard (Kelly 62).
DERRY CITY: Doherty, Jarvis, Molloy, McBride, P McEleney, Barry, Duffy, Lowry, McNamee, Dooley (Timlin 74), Patterson.
Referee: Neil Doyle.