Throwback Thursday: When UCC soccer club upset the odds to reach the League Cup last eight

UCC taking on Dundalk eight years ago in the EA Cup it was a sign of their ambition to grow as a club
Throwback Thursday: When UCC soccer club upset the odds to reach the League Cup last eight

Anton Reilly, Dundalk, in action against Evan Brown, UCC. Picture: Eoin Noonan/SPORTSFILE

EIGHT years ago this week, UCC’s fairy-tale run in the League of Ireland Cup came to an end with a 5-0 defeat to Dundalk at The Mardyke.

They bowed out in the quarter-final stage of the competition, something that was seen as a historical achievement for a team that was still establishing themselves outside the traditional barometers of intervarsity football.

This all happened just three years after they gained promotion to the Munster Senior League Premier Division, which was the next step in their evolution after they won their first Collingwood Cup in six years in 2011.

UCC would use their run in the League of Ireland Cup to become one of the best teams in the Munster Senior League and a conveyer belt for young footballers in the south of the country.

The appointment of John Caulfield as manager was the start of the process that led to this. The Cork City legend was brought in after turning Avondale United into the best intermediate team in the country by bringing almost every available piece of silverware to Avondale Park.

Noel Healy took the project to the next level, first by winning UCC the 2013-14 Munster Senior League Premier Division title and then he led his players into the League of Ireland Cup.

They warmed up for their first-round tie with Wexford Youths by beating Trinity College 3-1 in the Collingwood Cup final. That spring, UCC also won the Haring Cup and the Crowley Cup. That completed the intervarsity treble and it created a real buzz about soccer on the campus.

If their cup treble wasn’t enough, UCC also got to the FAI Intermediate Cup quarter-finals. There was no joy there as Leinster Senior League side St Mochta’s FC beat them 5-4 on penalties in Dublin after two 0-0 draws.

The College’s League of Ireland Cup campaign started at Ferrycarrig Park and two goals from Ian Mylod gave them a 2-1 victory over Wexford Youths on a wet and windy night.


The second-round draw paired them with Cobh Ramblers at The Mardyke, and Cian Hill gave them the lead in the 27th minute. Cian Murphy doubled that in the second half, and Cobh hit back with a brace from Robert Waters. Just as the crowd thought the game was going to extra-time, Sean O'Mahony turned the ball in, in the fourth minute of injury time and that won the tie for UCC.

The College were through to the quarter-finals and they were paired with reigning League of Ireland champions Dundalk.

The Lilywhites were already on their way to defending their title, and there was talk of a clean sweep of domestic honours given their early season form. This was to be the College’s biggest challenge to date, with Stephen Kenny bringing a full squad down to Cork for the league cup quarter-final.

UCC lined up as follows: Jason O’Mahony; Andy Gannon,Cian Hill (c), Sean O’Mahony, Cian Murphy; Sean O’Callaghan, Jason Abbott, Kyle O’Shea (Rufus Holmes 86), Evan Brown (Mark McManus 86), Calvin O’Callaghan (Ian Mylod 70); Brian Murphy.

This group of players faced a Dundalk team containing Gabriel Sava, Paddy Barrett, and John Mountney. They all had their league medals and were about to achieve untold success in the Irish game, in addition to playing the group stage of the Europa League.

The Lilywhites took the lead when Ciaran O’Connor lobbed the ball over the head of the UCC goalkeeper in the second minute.

The College almost equalised through a Jason Abbott’s free but this was headed narrowly wide by Kyle O’Shea.

Dundalk showed no remorse and were 3-0 up at half-time, with Paddy Barrett and Kurtis Byrne completing their night after the break.

The full-time whistle wasn’t a cause for disappointment, but celebration as UCC realised how far they had come.

The template that Noel Healy put together is still used eight years later, and it has brought multiple trophies to The Mardyke. At the top of this honours list is Collingwood Cup victories from 2017 and 2019, Premier Division titles in 2017 and 2019, and various local cup competitions.

Most importantly, UCC became a nursery for young footballers looking to bridge the gap between the Underage National Leagues and the League of Ireland. Sean O’Mahony went from UCC to Cork City and helped them win the double in 2017. He was joined by Sean McLoughlin, who now plays for Hull City in the EFL Championship.

The League of Cup run in 2015 propelled UCC into the same conversations as some of the greatest amateur teams in the country. Not only is the run still talked about in Cork soccer circles, but it has firmly established UCC as the centre of excellence for young players in the south of the country.

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