The Irish Colleges and Universities team recorded a slender victory over their Scottish counterparts at Oriel Park on Monday afternoon courtesy of an early strike from UCD’s Daire O’Connor.
Despite losing a number of panellists due to the refixed EA Sports Cup ties, head coach Greg Yelverton named a squad which included seventeen players with League of Ireland experience with eight of the twenty having accompanied the coach on the successful World University Games tournament held in Chinese Taipei last summer. Captained by Waterford United stopper Matthew Connor, the home side began on the offensive and had their opponents on the backfoot even before Daire O’Connor opened the scoring in the 10th minute courtesy of a deft finish from the UCD attacker following some lovely interplay on the edge of the Scottish penalty area.
The World University games panellist almost doubled his tally ten minutes later but Davison was equal to the task on this occasion and made a great save to keep the score at one nil. Next to test the navy blue defence was UCC’s centre back Seán O’Mahony but his towering header, following a corner, sailed over the crossbar before Bray Wanderers’ midfielder Darragh Noone drove an effort into the goalkeeper’s midriff from 20 yards. The half continued in a similar vein with the Irish dominant on the possession front and showing some excellent control on the ball as they sought to extend their advantage. However, it wasn’t to be as the first half finished with only a single strike separating the sides.
The second half began with an excellent effort from the Scottish number 9, Anton Dowds, which just sailed wide of Connor’s post. In the next attack, the Scots were almost made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal as strike partners O’Connor and the previously prolific Alan O’Sullivan linked up well, only for the Scottish keeper to once more deny the UCD sharpshooter with an excellent reflex stop on the hour mark. Connor, in the opposite goal, showed he was equally as competent with his hands as he’d previously exhibited with his feet, tipping an effort from rampaging full back Windram onto the post to preserve his clean sheet.
Amidst a flurry of substitutions his goal remained intact until the end as the visitors pressed valiantly for an equaliser. Dorian Ogunro, the visitors’ head coach will have many positives to take as his side dominated the second half of the proceeding and were arguably unlucky not to grab a goal as the Irish survived four minutes of additional time before the referee blew the final whistle to bring an end to an entertaining and high quality contest.
Speaking to extratime.ie following the game, Irish head coach Yelverton was honest in his appraisal of proceedings.
“They gave us a good tight game and they pressed us but our principles and our style was to build out against a high press and I thought we did very well in the first half. In the second half not so much but I thought overall the lads learned how we want to play and against the opposition today I thought it was good.’ The coach also went on to explain the importance of using the entire twenty-man squad in order to see players in game situations.
Irish Colleges and Universities: Matthew Connor; Shane Elworthy, Ross Taheny , Sean O’Mahony, Conor Kane; Jonny Bonner, Darragh Noone; Shane Daly- Butz, Daire O’ Connor, Jason McClelland; Alan O’Sullivan.
Substitutes: Lee Steacy, Liam Scales, Jamie Hollywood, Danny O’ Connell, Adrian Delap, Shane Barnes, Conor Barry, Tristan Noack- Hoffman