Graham Burke cracked home a stunning free-kick as champions Shamrock Rovers showed no signs of a hangover from Wednesday night's title celebrations as they clinically outplayed Derry City at Tallaght Stadium.
The victory sees Rovers remain unbeaten for the league season as they now head to Tolka Park to face Shelbourne on Monday when they will hope to seal the tag of 'Invincibles'.
With little or no preparation as they came out of a period of isolation due to their Covid outbreak, defeat ends Derry’s aspirations of Europe, leaving Declan Devine’s side needing a result away to bottom side Cork City to avoid potentially ending up in the relegation play-off place.
Having played on Wednesday and with Monday in mind, Rovers boss Stephen Bradley made four changes to his side with Danny Lafferty, Roberto Lopes, Dean Williams and Jack Byrne all coming in from the start.
In at right-back, Darren Cole was the only change in Declan Devine’s Derry line up from their 2-0 win over Shelbourne a fortnight ago.
Though Derry started purposefully, keeping the ball well early on, it was Rovers who almost punished their visitors from a swift counter attack for the first opening of the game on 11 minutes.
Byrne got away down the right with Eoin Toal having to show his defensive quality to get back well and take the cross off Williams’ toe as he raced onto the return ball.
That led to Rovers enjoying a good spell of possession as they strove to unlock Derry’s solid shape.
A slip by Candystripes’ skipper Conor McCormack did present Burke with a half chance on 25 minutes, but Peter Cherrie got a foot to the cross with the ball cleared.
Two minutes later ex-Derry midfielder Aaron McEneff was given time and space to shoot from distance with the visitors happy to see the effort arrow wide.
Rovers maintained the pressure with McCormack having some frantic defending to do on the half hour, nicking the ball away as Burke was set to shoot after Williams had skipped to the end line to pull the ball across goal.
Despite Rovers dominance, it was Derry who should have punished sloppy defending to take a 34th minute lead.
Lafferty’s lazy pass across his own area gifted the ball straight to Jack Malone. The ever alert Lopes salvaged the situation, just getting a touch to Malone’s goal-bound shot to deflect the ball out for a corner, much to Lafferty’s relief.
The relief switched to the other end five minutes later.
Burke combined with Williams to curl a shot with the outside of his left foot off the post. Byrne’s follow-up shot then struck Burke before Cherrie hacked the loose ball out of danger.
It was more of the same from Rovers on the restart, Byrne picking out McEneff on the left to ghost past Malone only to slide his shot right across the face of the goal and wide.
Burke then rifled a shot into the side-netting before giving Rovers their deserved lead on 57 minutes.
Lafferty was clumsily tripped by Conor Clifford on the corner edge of the area. Burke left Cherrie flat-footed as he stepped up to blast a direct free kick to the net off his powerful left foot.
Cherrie saved well with his feet to deprive substitute Aaron Greene who was played clean through by Byrne on 70 minutes.
McEneff then clipped the bar from Williams’ low cross as rampant Rovers probed to add to their winning margin.
That eventually arrived in the first minute of stoppage time as Greene latched onto Aaron McEneff’s pass to cut by McCormack and drill his shot from a tight angle past Cherrie.
Shamrock Rovers: Alan Mannus; Lee Grace, Roberto Lopes, Liam Scales; Aaron McEneff, Dylan Watts (Darragh Nugent 75); Ronan Finn (Max Murphy 64), Jack Byrne, Danny Lafferty (Sean Kavanagh 64); Graham Burke (Aaron Greene 64), Dean Williams (Thomas Oluwo 75).
Derry City: Peter Cherrie; Darren Cole (Gerardo Bruna h-t), Eoin Toal, Cameron McJannet, Ciaran Coll; Conor McCormack, Conor Clifford (Jake Dunwoody 68); Jack Malone, Joe Thompson (Ciaron Harin 68), Adam Hammill (Aluwaseun Akintunde 68); Walter Figueira (Patrick Ferry 80).
Referee: Damien MacGraith (Mayo).