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Shamrock Rovers made it through to a record breaking 16th League Cup semi-final with a 1-0 win against Derry City in the Brandywell on Tuesday night. Sean O’Connor’s excellently taken free kick goal was the difference between the teams in this EA Sports Cup quarter-final.
A sign of the importance both managers held this competition in was shown when Peter Hutton made just one change from his team that lost last week 1-0 away to Dundalk. Philip Lowry, who will be out for a number of week’s with a cartilage injury, dropped out with Sean Houston coming in.
Meanwhile Rovers boss, Pat Fenlon, with one eye likely on his team’s trip to Cork on Friday, used just one player, ‘keeper Craig Hyland, from the team that beat Longford Town 3-2 last time out in the league.
Shaun Patton kept the goalkeeper jersey for Derry even with Ger Doherty fit enough to be on the bench for the Candystripes and he pulled off two great saves within a minute of each other 12 minutes into the game.
First, he pulled off a superb stop from Gareth McCaffrey who was starting only his third game for the Hoops. Marty Waters, who provided two assists for Rovers on Friday against Longford, whipped a great ball into the Rovers centre forward from the left with McCaffrey’s header pushed around the post for a corner by Patton.
Sean O'Connor took the resulting set piece that caused mayhem in the Derry box. Ryan Brennan’s header was goalbound before Patton put out a paw to bat the ball back out. When it came to defender David O'Connor, he snatched at it with the defender skying the ball over the Derry crossbar.
It took 21 minutes for Derry to get sight of goal. The impressive Mark Timlin, starting wide on the right for Derry, cut inside and forced Hyland into a full length save diving to his left.
The Hoops took the lead ten minutes before the break. Marty Waters won a free kick off Barry McNamee who took the player down. Sean O'Connor and Gary McCabe stood over the free but it was O'Connor, from a short run up, who lifted the ball with his left foot over the Derry wall and into the top corner of the net for his fourth goal of the season.
McCaffrey was looking to take on the Derry defence at all times and five minutes after the opener he created his own opportunity to try and double his team’s lead. He pushed the ball onto his left and struck a well hit shot but he couldn't find the target.
Derry looked to find an equaliser as the game ticked towards half time and a deep Barry McNamee cross caused Rovers problems which required goalscorer Sean O'Connor to get back to clear and concede a corner.
The Candystripes lost their captain on half time due to injury as Ryan McBride had to be helped to the dressing room at the break with Ryan Curran coming on in the second half.
McCaffrey, leading the line as Rovers reverted to a 4-5-1 formation after Friday’s two up front, held the ball up nicely to bring support into play when he could. On 54 minutes, David O'Connor got forward from his left back berth to take a pass from McCaffrey and his effort just fizzed over the angle of the post and crossbar.
Timlin tested Hyland again shortly after with a fully hit shot from outside the Rovers box that the 'keeper got his body behind to save after he couldn't hold the driven effort.
The Hoops should have doubled their lead on 63 minutes when Ryan Brennan got through on goal. Cian Kavanagh split the Derry back four with an pinpoint pass to give Brennan a one-on-one with Patton. However the ‘keeper stood up well to save with his feet.
Peter Hutton went 4-4-2 to try and take the game into extra time with Anthony Elding coming on but the Hoops were able to hold out with Hyland keeping his 10th clean sheet in 14 games. Rovers really should have won by more with substitute Brandon Miele twice going close at in the closing stages for Rovers. It leaves Rovers 20 competitive games unbeaten – the first time they have done that since 1957.
Derry City: Shaun Patton; Seamus Sharkey, Ryan McBride (Ryan Curran h/t)), Shane McEleney, Aaron Barry; Mark Timlin, Seanan Clucas, Barry McNamee, Sean Houston (Anthony Elding 73), Dean Jarvis; Cillian Morrison (George Kelly 81).
Subs Not Used: Ger Doherty (gk), Shaun Kelly, Josh Daniels, Nathan Boyle.
Booked: Seanan Clucas (76), Dean Jarvis (83).
Shamrock Rovers: Craig Hyland; Tim Clancy, David Webster, Rob Cornwall, David O’Connor,; Sean O'Connor, Cian Kavanagh (Brandon Miele 64), Gary McCabe, Ryan Brennan, Kieran Marty Waters; Gareth McCaffrey (Dylan Kavanagh 69).
Subs Not Used: Michael Kelly (gk), Maxime Blanchard, Gavin Brennan, Michael Drennan.
Bookings: Gary McCabe (37), Cian Kavanagh (45+1).
Referee: Robert Harvey
Attendance: 750 (estimate)
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Sean O’Connor (Shamrock Rovers)