Young Matthew Whelan is keeping Cobh in the First Division title race

Young Matthew Whelan is keeping Cobh in the First Division title race
Cobh Ramblers' Matthew Whelan takes on Longford Town's Tristan Noack-Hoffman. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

LAST Friday evening in the UCD Bowl was another magnificent occasion for 18-year-old Cobh Ramblers striker Matthew Whelan, as his second-half goal helped the Leesiders to secure a hard-earned victory in the SSE Airtricity League First Division.

This was Whelan’s fifth goal of the current season (and his third in as many games), and considering how tough the Belfield surface is to play on, he was thrilled that Ramblers were able to get over the line against UCD.

“It was unreal. I thought the lads just worked unbelievably hard from start to finish. The pitch up here is absolutely massive. I don’t think people realise it, and I don’t think we stopped going for 90 minutes. Obviously delighted to get the goal,” Whelan stated.

Despite eventually claiming all three points, Ramblers came under pressure from the south Dublin outfit for large spells. Whelan acknowledged that Collie O’Neill’s charges are able to force most teams on the back-foot, but was pleased they were able to match their physical power throughout the game.

“UCD are a great side to pass a move very, very well, and they’ve a lot of big lads out on that pitch. You wouldn’t think it, but we matched them strength-for-strength all over, and to be honest, the team unit was unbelievable. We worked incredibly hard, and got the result.”

What makes this latest triumph for Cobh even more satisfactory is the fact it was secured without the services of skipper Chris ‘Kaka’ McCarthy. He has been absent for the past two fixtures following his red-card in a defeat to Athlone Town at the beginning of May, but Whelan praised Jason Abbott for the way he has stepped up to the plate.

“Obviously ‘Kaka’ [Chris McCarthy] is our captain and leader, so that’s always going to be a big loss. Jason Abbott is after stepping in, and he’s been unbelievable in the last two games. I think he has two assists in the last game, and this game he just worked unbelievably hard.”

While Whelan’s work ethic in attack set the foundations for a successful night in Dublin, Cobh also produced a strong defensive effort. Ben O’Riordan and underage international star James McSweeney are currently the central figures in their back-four, and Whelan sees great potential in their partnership.

“James, I tell you, he’d move mountains and rocks to get the three points! He’s an absolute animal, and he’d win everything for you. Delighted to have him back. Ben just came back as well. He was concussed there for two or three weeks. He’s after joining up really well now with James.”

With 13 games played in this year’s second-tier, Cobh are now only two points adrift of divisional leaders Waterford United. The Blues will make the journey to St Colman’s Park this Friday night, and Whelan is hopeful that their excellent home league record can remain intact.

“That’s an unbelievably huge game. We’re undefeated now at home I think for a year, so they’ll come down and find it tough. We’ll give them a right rattle. Hopefully then go top of the table next week,” Whelan added.

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