UCD edged out Bray Wanderers 4-3 in a phenomenal game of football to progress to the Third Round of the FAI Cup at the UCD Bowl on Friday night.
UCD raced into a three-goal first-half lead, however a revitalized Bray emerged from the tunnel and in an amazing 11 minute spell, Ryan Brennan secured an amazing hat-trick of goals including a spot-kick to pull the sides level. Gary O’Neill had an opportunity to put UCD back in front with a penalty of their own, however, he blazed over before Swan grabbed the winner on 73 minutes.
The Students got off to the perfect start when O’Neill won possession in midfield before spreading the ball wide to Kieran ‘Marty’ Waters. He cut inside, beat a man and was then fouled about five yards outside the D. O’Neill stepped up and curled an absolute wonder free-kick straight into the top left corner beyond the reaches of the outstretched Peter Cherrie to break the deadlock inside five minutes.
Straight from the restart, Greg Sloggett won the ball back and played it into the feet of O’Neill. The UCD captain found himself in acres of space and hit a low drive towards goal, however Cherrie had eyes on it all the way and safely gathered.
Bray had a glorious opportunity to equalize with 7 minutes on the clock when Karl Moore demonstrated an impressive amount of pace to beat Dan Tobin before whipping it across the face of goal onto the foot of Dylan Connolly. However, his first-time effort flew above the mark with the goal at his mercy.
Ten minutes later Jason McClelland was downed by Ryan Brennan in a similar position to where UCD opened the scoring. O’Neill stepped up and this time drove it low towards the target causing Cherrie to parry before it was cleared to safety.
Bray began to settle into the game and enjoyed decent spells of possession, however they were struggling to create any clear-cut chances with UCD’s centre-back pairing of Maxi Kouogan and Tomas Boyle playing extremely tight together which helped keep out any danger.
However, on the 34th minute mark a high ball up the pitch arrived at the feet of Dylan Watts. He played it back into the feet of Sloggett who took a touch before blasting it deep into the bottom-left corner.
Brennan then thought he had pulled one back for Bray five minutes before the break when he got on the end of a Connolly ball to bury it into the net. However, a Bray player was deemed to have handled the ball in the build-up and a free out was awarded.
Bray added their third right on the stroke of half-time. Sloggett threaded through an inch-perfect pass for Waters to run onto before calmly lifting it over Cherrie and into the net.
Harry Kenny’s half-time team talk must have struck several chords within the Bray squad as for the opening 11 minutes of the half they totally dominated. Moore received the ball wide right before whipping it into the box. UCD only half-cleared and Brennan was on hand to tuck it away and start the comeback.
Bray heaped on the pressure straight away and five minutes later Brennan pulled another back when Moore again delivered a hazardous ball into the area. It bounced around the box before Brennan pounced and blasted it into the top corner.
Three minutes later, the comeback was complete when O’Neill forced a goal-bound Dean Kelly to the floor with the referee showing no hesitation in pointing straight to the spot. Brennan stepped up and sent it straight down the middle to complete a stunning 11 minute hat-trick and bring Bray right back into it.
UCD reacted well and almost went back in front immediately when Swan got on the end of an excellent Sloggett pass through, however, he rifled it into the side-netting.
With 64 minutes on the clock, UCD broke up the field from a Bray attack. Swan was clipped inside the area on his way towards goal and another penalty was awarded. O’Neill stepped up but he failed to keep it down and it flew harmlessly over the bar.
The game continued to flow from end-to-end and both sides looked like they could add a fourth and with 73 minutes on the clock it was Swan who turn the tide back in UCD’s favour.
A long ball forward bounces awkwardly in the box allowing Swan to get under it and loft his header above Cherrie and bounce it into the net.
UCD then carved out a marvelous opportunity when his sparkling run resulted in cutting inside and arrowing a shot towards goal, however, it flashed wide.
With six minutes remaining, Kouogun broke from his defensive duties to gallop forward before squeezing a ball through to Jack Watson. His shot beat Cherrie but couldn’t beat the woodwork as it flew back off the crossbar.
In the dying embers of the game Bray were inches from forcing a replay with two extremely narrow misses.
First, Creevy got on the end of a corn and directed his header against the post before it was cleared. Minutes later, Brennan prodded a ball over Corbet, however, Kouogun stuck out a long limb to hook it away. It fell to Douglas who put it in the net, however, the flag was raised and it was ruled out.
UCD managed to see out the final few minutes to book their place in the third round after a truly fascinating game of football.
UCD: Niall Corbet, Adam Harney, Tomas Boyle, Maxi Kouogun, Dan Tobin, Kieran Waters, Greg Sloggett, Gary O’Neill, Dylan Watts (Jack Watson 80, Jason McClelland, Ryan Swan (Jason Byrne 87)
Subs not used: Conor Kearns, Josh Collins, Sean Coyne, Daire O’Connor, Georgie Kelly
Bookings: Adam Harney (29)
Bray Wanderers: Peter Cherrie, Hugh Douglas, Conor Kenna, Alan Byrne (Jason Marks 68), Sean Harding, Ryan Brennan, Robbie Creevy, Karl Moore (Gareth McDonagh 80), Dylan Connolly, Ger Pender, Dean Kelly (Mark Salmon 73)
Subs not used: Aaron Shanahan, Darragh Noone, Daniel Blackbyrne, Sean Noble
Bookings: Ryan Brennan (17), Sean Harding (26), Robbie Creevy (37), Dean Kelly (40),
Referee: James McKell
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Gary O’Neill (UCD)