Seán O’Connor’s boot does the damage to Derry City

Shamrock Rovers beginning to look like live European contenders on this display

Seán O’Connor scores the first of two cracking goals against Derry City. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Seán O’Connor scores the first of two cracking goals against Derry City. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho


Shamrock Rovers 2, Derry City 1

Given the scant resources that some of them have to deal with, it’s easy to forgive league team’s that lose their way a little when distracted by European runs, however short.

Derry City, though, appear to have lost their focus as one merely starts to loom on the horizon, with last night’s defeat in Tallaght their second in a row ahead of their opening Europa League fixture at Trabzonspor on Thursday.

The northerners must have fancied their chances a week or so back of being top of the table by the time St Patrick’s Athletic headed to Sligo tomorrow. Instead, they are still three points adrift of the the league leaders after having been a little unlucky to become the latest victims of the league’s best side on the road – Dundalk – last Friday at the Brandywell and losing out here to a Rovers side finding its form.

At least they had no complaints this time with the hosts comfortably on top from beginning to end, with the boot of Seán O’Connor alone, a pretty significant difference between the two sides.

Got both goals
The midfielder got both of the home side’s goals to make it three in three personally as well as five wins in six league outings for the locals, whose hopes of facing a European distraction of their own next season is suddenly starting to look realistic again.

Derry boss Declan Devine was hopeful before the game that his side would maintain a decent run of displays in Tallaght but he can’t have been encouraged by the their performance in the first half.

With Eamon Zayed’s international clearance having come through, Trevor Croly handed the striker his first competitive start but it was the Libyan international’s supporting cast which posed most threat early on, with O’Connor, Billy Dennehy and James Chambers all giving the City back four trouble.

Chambers, having fired one long-range free over, went closer with a header from an O’Connor corner but that too flew the wrong side of the crossbar.

For all the pressure, though, Ger Doherty looked as though he might survive the half without having to make a save of real of note. Unfortunately there was little the goalkeeper could do when Rovers hit the target, with O’Connor striking an unstoppable first-time shot, after a Barry Molloy header had set him up seven minutes before the break.

Marked his debut
Up until that point City’s lone attempt at the other end had consisted of a rushed Paddy Kavanagh effort that followed a terrific low through ball by Barry McNamee. However, they returned for the second with a greater sense of attacking purpose and after McNamee had turned an angled Eoghan Osborne fractionally the wrong side of the post, the newly arrived full-back marked his debut by winning a penalty – at the expense of Dennehy – which Michael Rafter slotted home.

For a few moments the equaliser seemed set to mark a real shift in the balance of the contest but the dust was still settling when O’Connor struck once more, cutting in past Osborne from the right-hand side and unleashing a shot from close to 25 yards that again left Doherty helpless.

He then twice went close to setting Dennehy up for the goal that would have made the game completely safe. The former Derry City winger then hit the post late on which kept things interesting for all concerned but ultimately didn’t make any difference to the destination of points Rovers richly deserved.

SHAMROCK ROVERS: Brush; Sullivan, Oman, Foran, Powell; Chambers (Robinson 64), Rice; O’Connor (McCabe 85), Finn, Dennehy; Zayed (Sheppard 58)
DERRY CITY: Doherty; Madden, Greacen, S McEleney, Osborne; Molloy; Kavanagh 7 (Griffin 79), Higgins 6 (Curran 72), B McNamee, Duffy; Rafter (McDaid 64).
Referee: P Sutton (Clare)