Cobh Wanderers 1
UCC picked up three precious points after they came from behind to beat Cobh Wanderers 3-1 at the Stephen Ireland Astro Pitch in Old Church Park on Friday evening.
The Students remain joint second bottom with St Mary’s, who were beaten 4-1 at home by Ringmahon Rangers the night before; both on 11 points.
UCC have played a couple of games more than Mary's, with both sides trailing Avondale United by two points.
All three have big games later in the week, with UCC’s home game against bottom side Douglas Hall at the Mardyke on Thursday (7.45 pm) a massive tie for the college side.
Crucially though, Avondale have just three games remaining, including one at home to the Saints who have six to play and UCC four.
Noel Healy’s men didn’t get the best of starts in Cobh; they fell behind inside a minute when a delivery into the penalty area caught the visitors napping and Ross McCarthy had time to bring the ball under control before firing past UCC keeper Callan Scully.
Healy was furious with his defence and five minutes later he would have been frustrated again when Scully came for a ball played down the left but missed it, allowing Alan O’Flynn in behind with an empty goal to aim at.
However, his first touch was off, allowing UCC defender Liam Barber to cut off his route to goal and he tidied up the Cobh man’s tame effort.
UCC settled and after full-back Ronan Geary curled a free-kick from the edge of the penalty area narrowly wide they drew level on 13 minutes.
Cobh keeper Shane Hallahan dwelled on the ball too long in his box, allowing Eoghan Vaughan to dispossess him, and while the striker’s effort went wide, he was fouled by the keeper in the process, a penalty was awarded, and Conor Bowdren obliged from the spot.
UCC were up and running now and two minutes later, Alex Minihane broke on the right, fed Vaughan inside, but his shot went narrowly wide.
UCC suffered a blow when Vaughan went off injured midway through the half to be replaced by Robert Geaney-O’Brien who would play a crucial role in the outcome.
Just after the hour mark another break on the right by Minihane, whose pace caused Cobh problems throughout, saw him pull a low cross back for the in-rushing Geaney-O’Brien, but he couldn’t get a touch and the ball was cleared to safety.
It was a sign of what was to come though, and after McCarthy had a decent effort go wide at Scully’s near post, Minihane and Geaney-O’Brien combined again, this time the replacement striker getting a controlled touch on Minihane’s excellent delivery to score from close range.
UCC’s confidence was high now and they controlled the game for the remainder of the half, though Cobh did have the ball in the net in injury-time, but the linesman’s flag was raised for offside.
Cobh upped the tempo after the restart and were the better side for most of the half.
They applied the pressure early in the half and just before the hour mark defender Eoin Hastings had a powerful header from McCarthy’s corner well saved on the line by Scully.
Three minutes later another Cobh header from a McCarthy delivery, this time from Gary Collins, went over.
Cobh continued to have the better of the exchanges, but UCC defended very well and limited the home side’s opportunities to test Scully further, though Stuart O’Rourke did bring another excellent stop out of the keeper with five minutes remaining.
A minute later, though, UCC sealed the win when, following the breakdown of a Cobh attack, the Students broke quickly with Minihane again the outlet.
His pace took him beyond Cobh’s defence and he had Michael Fahey in support; he squared the ball for his team-mate to tap home from close range to seal an important win in UCC’s fight for premier division survival.
COBH WANDERERS: Shane Hallahan, Eoin Hastings, Luke Smith, Diarmuid Kearney, Gary Collins, Dylan McNamara, George Keating, David Curran, Stuart O’Rourke, Ross McCarthy, Alan O’Flynn.
Subs: Mikey Foley for Smith (63), Kevin Foster O’Neill for Hastings (67), Cian O’Connor for O’Flynn (74).
UCC: Callan Scally, Ronan Geary, Stephen O’Connor, Liam Barber, Ethan Hurley, Michael Hammett, Michael Fahy, Conor Bowdren, Eoghan Vaughan, Doue Van Sindern, Alex Minihane.
Subs: Robert Geaney-O’Brien for Vaughan (22), Iffy Nzewi for Van Sindern (63), Brian Simpson for Hammett (88).
Referee: R O’Leary, D Deady, M O’Connell.