Graham Burke helped himself to a remarkable four goal haul as Shamrock Rovers recorded an emphatic, and long overdue, victory over Derry City in their SSE Airtricity League Premier Division clash at Tallaght Stadium.
Rovers had a desperately poor record against their visitors in recent years, this their first win in eight outings, six of which they’d lost.
While Rovers welcomed captain Ronan Finn back from a calf injury in their only change from the 6-0 rout of Bray Wanderers last time out, Derry were unchanged from their previous match, the 1-0 defeat of Bohemians at Dalymount Park.
And it was the Candystripes, who’d won on their previous three trips to Tallaght, who troubled Rovers from the off as they carved a chance from the first corner of the game two minutes in.
Defender Eoin Toal got free in the Rovers area to glance a header from Aaron McEneff’s delivery narrowly wide.
March 9, 2018
A minute later, Nicky Low spotted Hoops’ keeper Kevin Horgan way off his line and was just over with an audacious lob from inside his own half.
Derry maintained their bright start, forcing two further corners in the opening minutes as Rovers struggled to get a foothold in the game.
Rovers midfielder Sam Bone then needed to get his body in the way to deflect a Rory Patterson drive out for another corner after Ronan Curtis did well to set up his strike partner.
Despite that, it was Derry keeper Ger Doherty who had to make the first telling save of the game on 19 minutes.
Burke’s free kick from the left was only partially cleared. The loose ball fell invitingly into the path of Sean Kavanagh, whose first-time drive from outside the area was pushed round the post by Doherty at full stretch.
That roused Rovers with a sublime defence splitting pass from Kavanagh putting Brandon Miele through on goal five minutes later. Doherty raced from his line and did just enough to put off the Rovers midfielder who sliced well wide.
Derry City's Darren Cole with Dan Carr of Shamrock Rovers
But Derry continued to have Rovers at sixes and sevens at the back when they got forward.
Lee Grace twice had to come to the home sides rescue in quick succession.
First, the Hoops central defender cleared off the line from Patterson’s effort from a tight angle before deflecting a drive from the Derry striker out for the visitors’ seventh corner of the half, all before the half-hour mark.
In an open game, Dan Carr, conjured a Rovers chance with his powerful shot deflected for a corner off Darren Cole.
Doherty then showed his reflexes to hold a header by Finn from Burke’s free kick.
The two then combined beautifully to give Rovers a 41st-minute lead.
Finn’s delightful dinked through ball found the run of Burke who smashed his left-foot shot past Doherty.
Burke was instrumental as Rovers blew a chance to double their lead two minutes into the second half, Carr blazing the midfielder’s low cross way off target.
But Kavanagh made no mistake in extending Rovers’ advantage on 51 minutes with another superb goal.
Collecting Bone’s pass, the winger, who trained at Derry pre-season before opting to sign for Rovers, coolly cut past a defender before placing the ball into the corner of the net for a composed finish.
Well on top now, two goals in as many minutes ensured Rovers’ big win.
Finn blasted home with a low drive from just outside the area on 67 minutes.
A poor clearance from Doherty was then punished as Miele set up Burke to calmly roll the ball into the corner of the net.
Substitute Ronan Hale got Derry’s consolation on 73 minutes, driving home following Patterson’s through ball.
Two minutes later Burke’s hat-trick arrived when he tapped home Trevor Clarke’s low cross before he raced clear onto substitute Gary Shaw’s pass to add his fourth goal in stoppage time.
Shamrock Rovers: Kevin Horgan; Ethan Boyle (Roberto Lopes 68), Lee Grace, Ally Gilchrist, Trevor Clarke; Sam Bone; Brandon Miele, Ronan Finn (David McAllister 73), Graham Burke, Sean Kavanagh; Dan Carr (Gary Shaw 72).
Derry City: Ger Doherty; Darren Cole, Eoin Toal, Niall Logue (Ronan Hale 58); Jamie McDonagh (Conor McDermott 28), Rory Hale (Dapo Kayode 83), Aaron McEneff, Nicky Low, Ben Doherty; Rory Patterson, Ronan Curtis.
Referee: Tomas Connolly (Dublin).