Dylan O'Connell reports from Turner's Cross
A 3-2 thriller secured Cork City's Premier Division status at Turner's Cross with a result which all but confirmed UCD's relegation to the First Division.
Karl Sheppard, Daire O'Connor and Conor McCormack were on target in a frantic evening that saw goals from Dara Keane and Jack Keaney keep the students fighting until the very last kick of the game.
There was a foreboding theme of relegation throughout the night and both teams played a loosened game plan from the beginning to end to try and get the result that they needed.
UCD started the brightest and looked certain to take the lead after Ritchie O’Farrell fought through to face goal, but the hands of Tadhg Ryan kept things scoreless.
The Leesiders soon found their attacking attacking rhythm, through a succession of chances that left both Conor McCormack and Dan Casey narrowly denied through a combination of Conor Kearns’ excellent positioning and the woodwork.
City’s confidence grew and driven by Karl Sheppard, the esteemed winger got on a long ball from Gearoid Morrissey in the centre. He cut inside and through a deflection took the ball by Kearns to give the home side the lead.
This did little to unnerve UCD who where patient in their attacking opportunities. Sitting back, the Students absorbed and broke through Dara Keane.
The midfielder fired point blank towards goal and Ryan poked a hand out to stop the ball. As Keane prepared to tap in the inevitable equaliser, remarkably the City goalkeeper spread himself to keep it at 1-0 at the break.
Midway through the second half, Daire O’Connor doubled City’s lead. Latching on to Joel Coustrain’s through ball, the attacking midfielder darted on to dink it passed an advancing Kearns.
Coustrain nearly grabbed his first goal for the club seconds from the restart, after winning it back and curling the ball towards goal, but an on the line McEvoy headed it to safety.
Dara Keane turned in YoYo Mahdy’s corner to pull one back for the Students on 73 minutes.
After referee Sean Grant showed Liam Kerrigan a red card, City used the inevitable space to grab their third as the clock ticked to 90 minutes.
A lurking McCormack turned and bobbed his way into space, and fired across goal to make it 3-1. UCD kept going though, and were gifted a penalty after Conor McCarthy brought down Keaney.
Stepping up, the midfielder made no mistake as he netted from the spot, setting the game up for a knife edge finale.
Injury time saw the Students power forward, throwing Kearns up top trying to force an equaliser.
Through a corner, Keane found himself facing goal and as Turner’s Cross braced, the midfielder’s shot bounced from the post and a dashing Conor McCormack cleared to secure three points to confirm Cork City’s Premier Division status.
Cork City FC: Tadhg Ryan, Gearoid Morrissey, Conor McCormack, Daire O’Connor, Alec Byrne, Karl Sheppard, Shane Griffin (Colm Horgan 82), Conor McCarthy, Joel Coustrain (Eoghan Stokes 74), Dan Casey, Beineon O’Brien Whitmarsh.
Subs not used: Mark McNulty, Mark O’Sullivan, Gary Buckley, Ricardo Dinanga, Dale Holland.
UCD: Conor Kearns, Mark Dignam (Danu Kinsella-Bishop 88), Harry McEvoy, Jack Kearney, Paul Doyle, Ritchie O’Farrell, Dara Keane, Liam Kerrigan, Yoyo Mahdy (Sam Byrne 82), Jason McCelland (Evan Farrell 26).
Subs not used: Gavin Sheridan, Aaron McGrath, Dan Tobin, Ciaran Behan.
Sent Off: Liam Kerrigan
Referee: Sean Grant.
CONFIRMED | @DroghedaUnited will now face @Cabinteely_FC in the @SSEAirtricityLg Play-Offs.— Drogheda United F.C. (@DroghedaUnited) October 11, 2019
We begin on the 18th of October at the Stradbrook with the return leg on the 25th at United Park! #United100 #TheShowGoesOn pic.twitter.com/7MPVe3cdD7