Derry City manager Ruadhari Higgins believes his squad's improved strength and depth was the difference between them and Shamrock Rovers in their FAI Cup quarter-final victory.

The Candystripes took the early lead courtesy of a Jamie McGonigle's header before Lee Grace was sent-off for the Hoops and Derry awarded a first-half penalty, which Cameron Dummigan missed.

Rovers levelled things through Rory Gaffney to take the tie into extra-time before goals from Daniel Lafferty and Brandon Kavanagh sealed a 3-1 victory for Higgins' men.

It was only the second time in the last 15 meetings of the two sides in which Derry came out on top and Higgins believes that the club’s summer signings were pivotal.

One of those signings, Brandon Kavanagh, played a pivotal role as he came off the bench to score the crucial third goal for Derry in extra-time.

"It’s a brilliant win here," the Derry boss said afterwards. "I thought we maybe should have been more in front at half-time.

"They changed their system, obviously they were down to 10 men but they were very smart with their system. We got it over the line but they were fantastic for a period in the second half, so credit to them.

"We’ve been guilty maybe probably over the last while of not going and getting the second goal and it was the same here but I don’t care, the cup is about getting into the next round.

"We played Rovers back in May and we didn’t have the depth that night to go on and at least get a point.

"We’ve added quite well in the summer and you’ve seen the players we were able to get off the bench – Brandon Kavangh’s first goal for the club and what a night to get it on.

"He took the goal brilliantly. He’s found himself out of the team the last few weeks but that’s the way to answer a manager when he leaves you out, to put the ball in the net."

Up next for Derry is a home semi-final against Treaty United, and while the Candystripes will be heavy favourites Higgins isn’t taking anything for granted.

"A home draw is all you can ask for, the Brandywell will be packed again. They’ve gone and beat UCD comprehensively so there’s one thing I can guarantee, we’ll not be taking it light by any stretch.

"We’ll do our homework and study them intensely and try to get into the final."

Away from the cup, Derry are still very much involved in the title race, although Higgins appears to be eager to play that down.

His side are just one point behind Rovers, albeit the Hoops have two games in hand.

Rovers have taken just eight points from their last five games and there have been suggestions that their Europa Conference League campaign is proving to be a be a bigger distraction than they would have hopes for.

But for now, Higgins isn’t getting carried away.

"I don’t know about a title race, for me they have one hand on it," he said.

"We have total respect for Shamrock Rovers and what they’ve done over the last couple of years. It’s up to us and it’s up to the rest to try and close that gap and we’re working hard to do that."