CORK City finally confirmed their Premier Division through a hard-fought 3-2 win over UCD.
For manager Neal Fenn, it was his first win as City boss and I’m sure he wishes he could play UCD every week. The victory was well deserved even if they gave their 2,047 fans some scary moments in the end.
Fenn can now enjoy the final two games against Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers in the knowledge that City are safe. It also gives him the opportunity to experiment, with nothing at stake.
As he has already stated, with only four players contracted for next year, he should use these last two games as an opportunity to look at some of the younger players in the club and see if they have enough to offer something.
The first half was even enough with City leading at the break after a great finish from Karl Sheppard having got on the end of a perfect pass from Gearoid Morrissey. It’s a pity the season is coming to an end as I don’t think Sheppard will be happy with his contribution.
The sides could and should have been level early on in the second half if it wasn’t for superb saves from Tadgh Ryan. And then City doubled their lead with a well-taken goal from Daire O’Connor.
Getting at the end of a perfect through ball from Whitmarsh, O’Connor did well to dink the ball past the UCD keeper. Although he took his goal well he still needs to work on keeping his head up and learn when and when not to pass.
UCD brought it back to 2-1 on 73 minutes when Dara Keane headed home from a corner and then the pressure was on City. They needed the third and thankfully it came on the 90th minute when Conor McCormack's persistence paid off and after linking up excellently with O’Connor, he was happy to see his final strike hit the back of the net.
Credit to him for playing out of position, doing well and scoring a goal. Typical of McCormack, who always gives 100%, and is never found wanting for effort.
However, it wasn’t over just yet. Referee Sean Grant gifted the visitors a penalty in which Keane duly converted. It was a nervy injury time period where City were lucky not to concede and relieved to hear the final whistle.
It was great to see Fenn’s progress on the pitch in terms of quality passing which resulted finally in rewarding the home fans with some goals. This was something that was sadly lacking since he took over.
The pressure now is off and I would definitely like to see some of the younger players feature in the final two games. It would be a good test for what we can expect to see next season.
Beineon O’Brien Whitmarsh looked promising up front and had a great assist for the second goal. Alec Byrne is proving to be a key player. His confidence on the ball is growing and I love how composed he is receiving possession from his defence.
For the older players on the squad, next Friday’s game could possibly be our last time seeing them play in Turner’s Cross against Dundalk.
It will be the final opportunity to watch this present Cork City side in action, as it will be a whole new team next year.
In a sad way, it’s an end of an era. After six years, we'll see a new-look City next season.