League Preview: Derry City -v- Shamrock Rovers

Shane McEleney on the ball ahead of Aaron Greene's during Derry's 2-0 home defeat to the Hoops in May 2023

Shane McEleney on the ball ahead of Aaron Greene's during Derry's 2-0 home defeat to the Hoops in May 2023 Credit: John-Paul McGinley (ETPhotos)


It is a crucial four days in Derry as the Candystripes welcome Shamrock Rovers to the Ryan McBradie Brandywell Stadium on Friday in front of the live RTÉ TV cameras. Monday’s matches will see City host St. Patrick’s Athletic with the Hoops away to league leaders Shelbourne.

City and Rovers were the two teams tipped to go head-to-head in this league’s title race. Coming into Friday’s game, second placed City are five points behind Shels and a point clear of the Hoops in fourth place – although the champions do have a game in hand.

It is the second time the teams have faced each other this season. In early March Rovers went ahead through a goal from Darragh Burns before Pat Hoban and Danny Mullen put City ahead. The Hoops needed an injury time equaliser from Markus Poom to prevent City taking away all three points from Tallaght.

The Candystripes are top scorers in the Premier Division with 16 goals from their ten game. Speaking at the club’s weekly Wednesday press conference manager Ruaidhri Higgins said: “It’s important to be ruthless in front of goal when we’re dominating games, but it’s not just about goals.

“We need to be more ruthless defensively too - from front to back - and be able to manage games better when we have to.”

Both sides have lengthy injury lists with City having to deal without Hoban (who is the league’s top scorer), Sadou Diallo, Patrick McEleney and Cameron Dummigan in recent weeks but Higgins is hopeful he might be able to call upon one of that important quarter.

“We have a couple of lads who aren’t far away at all. I’d like to think we’ll be working off the same squad as at Drogheda but with probably one addition” he said.

That Drogheda game was a 2-2 draw in Louth last week when the Candystripes conceded a 87th minute equaliser. Having fallen behind, goals from Michael Duffy and Will Patching’s second goal in two games gave them a half-time lead but it was a lead they couldn’t hold onto. 

“In my three years at the club, Will is right up there with the best players I have worked with. He’s one of the best players in the league, not just here,” said Higgins.

“He’s had to play in a deeper role, given our injuries this season, but he’s been excellent whatever he’s been asked to do.

“His goal against Dundalk last week was outstanding and he carries a real threat for us. We’re delighted with his form and it’s clear he is really enjoying his football at the minute.”

It is a sold out Brandywell for the visit of the four-in-a-row champions. 

“Friday night should be a great occasion and it’s a game that always brings out the best in our supporters. They have a massive role to play, and we’ll do everything we can to give them a huge three points.”


The Hoops have the chance to jump above Derry City with a win on Friday night – should Bohs fail to beat Drogheda at home, victory for Rovers would also put them into second place ahead of Monday’s match against table toppers Shelbourne.

Rovers have four wins from their last five games and last week’s home victory over Sligo Rovers in Tallaght was the best we’ve seen from Stephen Bradley’s side this season. 

“It looked a lot more like us,” said Bradley speaking to shamrockrovers.ie. “We applied ourselves for the full 90 minutes and that’s all you can ask. You’re not going to have the perfect game at any point, you’ll give up opportunities and that’s football, it’ll happen in any game around the world. What we did really well against Sligo was we applied our minds and respected the game for 90 minutes. That was really important.

“Derry are a good side and we know that. They’ve got good players and we know Derry away is always a difficult game but I think we’re in a good place. We’ll go up there with every intention to respect Derry but go try and win the game and that’s what we’ll try to do.

"It’s usually a good game, both teams are decent who go for it, so it has the makings of a good game.”

Rovers’ long injury list and the artificial playing surface will feed into Bradley’s team selection. 

“The pitch definitely plays on your mind if you have players carrying knocks or players it doesn’t suit. We’d like it to be real grass, but it’s big and the spaces suit us. We like playing there and Friday will be no different.”

Lee Grace’s injury after the win in Waterford requires a visit to a specialist in London next week while Neil Farrugia is waiting on the all clear from his surgeon following his shoulder injury before being available for selection.

Jack Byrne remains out but, having done some running this week, he will step up his training before month’s end. Aaron McEneff remains at least a fortnight away.

“When you name off all the players, there’s quite a few and all are obviously good players, but we’re getting there. I’d be hopeful come the end of the month we should have most or all back all going well.”

Referee: Paul McLaughlin


When the teams met at the Brandywell in last season’s curtain raiser President’s Cup, City won 2-0 thanks to goals from Will Patching and Michael Duffy.

City went back-to-back wins over Rovers by defeating the Hoops 2-1 in Tallaght in their first league encounter in March. 

However, Rovers won the next two games – 2-0 in Derry (Richie Towell and Jack Byrne) and 1-0 in Dublin 24 (Rory Gaffney). 

When City last played the Hoops at home it was in mid-September and the Candystripes led Rovers 1-0 at home with five minutes thanks to a Cameron McJannet goal. If they had held onto that scoreline they would  have moved to within a point of Rovers at the top of the table with just six games remaining for both teams.

However, Graham Burke scored a late penalty to keep Rovers four points clear at the top of the league, it was lead they never relinquished and indeed one they extended. City would end the season seven points behind the Hoops.



Derry City

Injured: Colm Whelan

Doubtful: Sadou Diallo, Patrick McEleney, Pat Hoban, Cameron Dummigan

Suspended: None

Shamrock Rovers

Injured: Neil Farrugia, Sean Hoare, Jack Byrne, Aaron McEneff, Lee Grace

Doubtful: Sean Kavanagh, Rory Gaffney

Suspended: None