Kelly didn’t score the vital goal, however. That honor went to Derry veteran striker Liam Coyle, who was winning his third Cup final medal in three different decades with the Candystripes.
Derry have now won the FAI at three different Dublin venues: Dalymount Park, Lansdowne Road and Tolka Park.
For a club that just two years ago was on the brink of financial ruin, Derry City’s triumph was especially sweet. Coyle’s goal early in the second half was enough to secure the trophy, but it also guaranteed Derry a prized and potentially valuable place in next season’s UEFA Cup.
On this occasion, money was not on the players’ minds as they celebrated the club’s third success in the competition. With a mixture of young, home-grown talent and seasoned campaigners such as Peter Hutton and Coyle, Derry just about deserved their victory against a Shamrock Rovers side which failed to convert several chances.
Derry goalkeeper Alan Gough made crucial saves from Tony Grant, Luke Dimech, Terry Palmer and Pat Scully as Rovers had much of the attacking play. Late on, with Rovers continuing to pile on the pressure, Gough parried a shot and sub Derek Tracey almost scored from the rebound, but Derry managed to hold out.
“It’s a fantastic achievement, given the way the club was on its knees just a couple of seasons ago,” said winning manager Kevin Mahon, while his opposite number, Liam Buckley, admitted that Rovers failed to perform. “We didn’t play particularly well and that was the biggest disappointment as the game seemed to pass one or two players by.”
Former international Kelly, meanwhile, announced his retirement after the game.
Derry City: Gough, Harkin, McLaughlin, E. McCallion, Hargan, Hutton, Martyn, Doherty, Friars, Kelly, Coyle. Subs: T. McCallion for Coyle, 58 mins.; McCready for Friars, 67 mins.
Shamrock Rovers: O’Dowd, Costello, Scully, Palmer, Byrne, S. Grant, Dimech, Colwell, Keddy, T. Grant, Hunt. Subs: Robinson for Byrne, Tracey for Colwell, both 70 mins.; Francis for S. Grant, 83 mins.