Pat Fenlon gets off to Rovers flier against Derry City
Shamrock Rovers 2 Derry City 0
The performance did not suggest that Pat Fenlon's Shamrock Rovers are ready to make a late charge for the title, but the confidence they gain from his debut win could prove more significant.
Fenlon's troops showed a clinical edge to collect the three points and their response will be fascinating.
On Thursday, the newly appointed 45-year-old suggested that he didn't need to radically alter the personnel, instead indicating that the group he inherited from Trevor Croly were short on belief. In particular, they have struggled to make use of home advantage.
They rode their luck at times here, but escaping with the spoils should send them into the final third of the campaign in good heart. Fenlon will know, however, that he still has a lot of work to do to make this group a match for Dundalk. They are ten points off the Louthmen with 10 matches remaining.
The logical appointment was given a warm welcome beforehand, but he had the look of a man who wanted all the fuss out of the way. What followed was a reminder of why the Hoops have dropped off the pace in the past month.
Fenlon had a pen and paper in his hand and there were few positives for the Dubliner to scribble down.
In truth, the laboured hosts should have gone in at the break behind, with Derry profligacy the main reason for the stalemate.
Peter Hutton's side are steadily improving and lively movement from their attacking midfielders exposed weaknesses in the Rovers side with Candystriped runners from deep finding space between a Hoops defence and midfield that didn't appear to be on the same wavelength.
Stephen Dooley, a talented June acquisition, was also causing Luke Byrne problems from his right wing berth and Duffy could have converted his early dragback. Further chances followed with Patrick McEleney, the technically gifted playmaker, calling Barry Murphy into action with a right footer that was frantically pushed to safety.
Fenlon, an increasingly animated figure, implored his centre halves to push up and the Hoops managed to string a couple of passes together in a move that culminated with lone striker Dean Kelly failing to trouble Ger Doherty with a weak header.
Derry responded to take control again before the interval with three good opportunities falling to Duffy.
The first came after Rory Patterson forced a stop from Murphy following a poor first touch and sent the rebound into the path of the winger who curled narrowly wide.
His subsequent opportunities were a miscued header from a fine McEleney centre and an overhit strike from a Barry McNamee through ball.
It didn't get better for Duffy following the resumption. Rovers started brightly but they were still given problems when Derry broke and the 20-year-old was at the heart of it again, squandering a one-on-one by firing straight at Murphy.
Inevitably, the wastefulness was punished on the hour mark as the locals made efficient use of a foray into Derry territory with a deep delivery from Kieran Marty Waters nodded by Dean Kelly onto the head of Ronan Finn who steered the ball past Doherty from close range.
Derry went in search of a leveller but they were short of the requisite composure in the final third as Rovers tightened up ahead of the game's decisive moment ten minutes later.
This time, Finn turned provider, weaving through a static Derry defence and chipping to the back post where Kelly had the simple task of converting a fourth goal in seven league outings.
That was game over, with Derry sucker punched and Fenlon, who left Stephen McPhail on the bench, bringing in Robert Bayly for Finn to see out the final quarter of an hour.
Shamrock Rovers – Murphy, Madden, McGuinness, Kenna, Byrne; Robinson, Brennan; Waters (Sheppard 66), Finn (Bayly 73), McCabe (S O'Connor 86); Kelly.
Derry City – Doherty, Ventre, McBride, Barry, Timlin (Jarvis 80); Lowry, McNamee; Dooley, P McEleney (Curran 75) , Duffy; Patterson (Tracey 86).
Ref – Dave McKeon (Dublin)