Cork City 3 UCD 2
CORK City got a first win under Neale Fenn and avoided relegation as they beat UCD at Turner’s Cross on Friday night, but it was a far-from-straightforward victory.
When Conor McCormack made it 3-1 in injury time, City looked to be safe but UCD replied straightaway as sub Danu Kinsella-Bishop was fouled for a penalty, which Jack Keaney netted.
Then, in the 95th minute, Kinsella-Bishop almost grabbed a leveller for the visitors as he hit the post, but City held out to guarantee Premier Division football for 2020 as Shamrock Rovers beat Finn Harps, who now cannot overtake City and escape the promotion-relegation playoff spot.
City had two changes from last week’s 1-0 loss to Bohemians, with Gearóid Morrissey returning from injury while teenage striker Beineón O’Brien-Whitmarsh was given his start, with Colm Horgan and Eoghan Stokes missing out.
UCD, who had a slim chance of avoiding automatic relegation if they had won, did have the first chance as Richie O’Farrell tested Tadhg Ryan after loose City play, but the hosts took control after that.
Alec Byrne continued to impress in midfield with Karl Sheppard and Joel Coustrain looking sharp and Sheppard’s cross-cum-shot needed an important touch from UCD goalkeeper Conor Kearns.
While Yoyo Mahdy was showing signs of making something happen for UCD, the bulk of the goalmouth action was at the other end. On 28, Sheppard found Conor McCormack — playing right-back — in the area but he fired well over. However, they didn’t have to wait much longer as the goal arrived just after the half-hour.
A good pass from Morrissey was the genesis of the move as he picked out Sheppard, who cut inside and found the net with a left-footed shot, Kearns unable to keep it out despite getting a hand to the ball.
Morrissey almost made it 2-0 from Dáire O’Connor’s lay-off, shooting just wide, though UCD fashioned an effort too, with Ryan saving Liam Kerrigan’s low shot.
As half-time approached, UCD defender Harry McEvoy cut out Shane Griffin’s cross intended for O’Brien-Whitmarsh and Morrissey was unable to get enough on a McCormack cross.
Early in the second half, O’Brien-Whitmarsh went close, Dáire O’Connor the creator of the chance for him, before UCD went close in quick succession following a scramble, with Ryan saving brilliantly from Dara Keane and then Mahdy.
Coustrain nearly made it 2-0 for City on 57, shooting at Kearns after O’Brien-Whitmarsh laid off to him, and then Morrissey had a low effort wide on 61. However, the second goal did arrive three minutes later, with O’Brien-Whitmarsh’s pass putting O’Connor in and he finished smartly against his former club.
There were opportunities for a third, Coustrain’s effort blocked with O’Brien-Whitmarsh’s follow-up wide, but UCD were back in the game 18 minutes from the end. With Ryan having saved well from Mahdy at the expense of a corner, Jason McClelland’s delivery was headed home by Keane and the Students sensed that they might get something from the game.
Ryan had to be alert to deny Keane in the wake of that and when McCormack netted after O’Connor’s shot was blocked the win looked assured. It was achieved, but not without a nervy finish.
CORK CITY: Ryan; McCormack, McCarthy, Casey, Griffin (Horgan 81); Morrissey, Byrne; Sheppard, Coustrain (Stokes 75), D O’Connor; O’Brien-Whitmarsh.
UCD: Kearns; Dignam (Kinsella-Bishop 88), McEvoy, Boore (Farrell 27), Doyle; Kerrigan, Keaney, O’Farrell, McClelland; Mahdy (Byrne 81), Keane.
Referee: S Grant (Wexford).