On a brisk Friday evening in the UCD Bowl, UCD AFC, second bottom in the league heading into the game, took on a Cork City side aiming to continue their good form, having picked up 20 points from a potential 24 in their past 8 games. UCD were aiming to halt a five game losing streak and give themselves a better chance of survival heading into the final three games of the season.
Cork started the game brighter, keeping UCD penned into their half for the majority of the first 30 minutes. City were holding onto the ball better in all areas of the pitch, while College were unable to consistently string more than 4 passes together.
Billy Dennehy was the Leesiders’ main attacking threat for the first half, attacking down the left at every given opportunity. Hugh Douglas, the College fullback, had a tough night at the office trying to contain him. The Rebel Army opened their account in the 13th minute, through Ross Gaynor the left back. City got the ball in the middle of the pitch after bad play by College from their own kick out. The ball was spread wide to Gaynor who took a touch, than unleashed a rasping 25 yarder into the top left corner passed a helpless Conor O’Donnell between the sticks.
College had a good opportunity to respond a couple of minutes later when they were awarded a free kick right in middle of the pitch but with 20 yards out, Robbie Benson, the College captain, was unable to put much power behind his shot and it dribbled safely into the Cork keeper Mark McNulty’s hands.
The first yellow cards of the game were brandished by Padraig Sutton, just under 20 minutes into the match after Chris Mullhall, the College winger, tussled with Dennehy, both players were booked for their part in the incident.
25 minutes in and the Leesiders doubled their advantage over the home side from the penalty spot. After more good interplay in midfield involving Dennehy, Johnny Dunleavy, the captain, got into the box and was hauled down by Douglas, who got booked to add to his troubles. Dennehy converted with aplomb, the ball nestling into the bottom left corner.
UCD got some sort of a foothold in the game for a brief period of time during the last 20 minutes of the first half, with their main threat and vocal points for their attacks coming down their left hand side. However, when they did get the ball into the box, neither Samir Belhout nor Gary Burke were able to do much with it as they were well marshalled throughout by Dan Murray and Johnny Dunleavy, Cork’s centre-backs.
Belhout was getting visibly more frustrated as the first half drew to a close. However, his job upfront was a thankless task as UCD were prevented from getting easy balls once they were within 25 yards of McNulty’s goal. This was epitomised by Benson’s shot just before half-time from 20 yards out which was high and not so handsome. At half-time Cork led College 0-2.
College made a half-time swap, with Conor Cannon coming on for Ayman Ben Mohamed, who had been full of endeavour on the left wing in the first half but not much else. Cannon brought more energy up front. Whatever was said to the team at half-time clearly had an effect as College were winning more of the 50/50 balls, putting into more tackles and seemed more up the fight than compared to the first half.
However, any momentum that College were gaining and the last vestige of hope they had of getting back into the game was shattered just before the hour when Belhout was sent off for two bookings in two minutes. His first, in the 52 minute, was for pulling back the Cork right back John Kavanagh in frustration at losing the ball. Two minutes later he was off after fouling the same player again. This meant the task which had been difficult from the start was now nigh on impossible for College with 30 minutes left of the game.
Ten minutes later and the extra man showed, as Garry Buckley was able to control the ball on his chest after the ball had been crossed in from the right and put it being O’Donnell. UCD’s best chance of the night, surprisingly, came when they were down to ten men. Just after Cork’s third goal, College strung together some nice passes down the right and the ball was crossed in, the ball was headed away and ended up at Benson’s feet, he hit a nice shot from 20 yards which McNulty had to save, however, he was only able to parry straight to Cannon who was running in however he blazed over the bar from a few yards out.
Dennehy went off to rapturous applause from the City fans with 21 minutes to go. However, Cork still dominated the rest of the game through the likes of Colin Healy and Dunleavy and had enough threat and attacking sense to put the game beyond any doubt when Buckley scored his second and Cork’s fourth in the 87th minute.
The game ended with Cork almost scoring a 5th from the last kick of the game, which was a corner O’Donnell had to tip around the corner of the goal. The full-time score was UCD AFC with nil, Cork City with four.
UCD AFC: C. O’Donnell, H. Douglas, G. Matthews, I. Ryan, J. Kavanagh, R. Creevy, R. Benson, G. Burke (C. Crowe 62min), A. Ben Mohamed (C. Cannon ht), S. Belhout, C. Mulhall (T. Molloy 75min)
Subs not used: N. Corbet, , S. Coyne, M. Langtry, , D. Tobin.
Cork City FC: M. McNulty, J. Kavanagh (J. O’Shea 75min), J. Dunleavy, D. Dennehy, C. Healy, J. O’Flynn, R. Gaynor, D. Murray, B. Dennehy (L. Kearney 69min), M. O’Sullivan (D. O’Leary 78min), G. Buckley
Subs not used: C. Morrison, M. McSweeney, R. Lehane, K. O’Brien
Referee: Padraig Sutton Assistants: Dermot Broughton, Robert Clarke Fourth Official: David McKeon