Macdara Ferris reports from UCD Bowl
First Division league leaders UCD deservedly booked their place in the semi-final of the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup at the expense of Premier Division Waterford in Belfield on Friday evening.
First half goals from Conor Davis and Timmy Molloy were enough to put the Students into their first FAI Cup semi-final since 2007, with the Blues only able to grab a consolation goal from Stanley Aborah 13 minutes from time.
For Waterford it meant the closure of one of their routes into Europe next season. They will be looking to grab third place in the league now or hope that either Cork City or Dundalk win the cup to secure European football at the RSC for next season.
The Students, five points clear at the top of the First Division, were unchanged from their impressive 3-0 league win last week in Drogheda.
Waterford were looking to avoid back-to-back defeats in Dublin after suffering a 3-0 defeat against St. Patrick’s Athletic in Richmond Park last week – a loss that saw them drop to fourth in the Premier Division table below Shamrock Rovers.
Alan Reynolds made four changes to his starting XI from that game. Sander Puri was unavailable as he is part of the Estonian squad taking on Greece in the UEFA Nations League on Saturday evening.
Courtney Duffus was dropped to the bench as the club noted he was carrying an illness but he was on the pitch by the 37thminute to replace Ishahil Akinade who had picked up a knock. By then the Blues were 2-0 down and looking bereft of ideas.
While both teams are renowned for passing play, there was very little penetration in the opening half of the first 45 minutes.
Waterford were able to get forward down the wings to swing a number of dangerous crosses into the box but the Students defence was able to hold firm. Their goalkeeper Conor Kearns twice did well to punch clear under pressure from the Blues.
The game turned across a six minute period beginning on 20 minutes when the Students took the lead. Conor Davis slid in on a beautifully weighted pass from Greg Sloggett who had ghosted by Bastein Hery to find space on the edge of the Waterford box. O'Neill touched the ball by Niall Corbet as he held off Kenny Browne.
Not long after Gary O'Neill almost doubled the lead with a dipping right foot effort that took a slight deflection to take it just by Corbet’s post. However when the resulting corner was cleared to Timmy Molloy he left fly from the edge of the area.
Wrapping his right foot around the ball, he curled it beyond Corbet’s outstretched hand and into the top corner to silence the sizeable travelling support in Belfield.
2-0 down at the break, Alan Reynolds changed things up at half time bringing on Stanley Aborah in place of the ineffectual Dessie Hutchinson and his captain Paul Keegan didn’t last past the hour mark as the Blues made their final change.
Corbet needed to be on his toes to tip another rasping Molloy effort as the Students grew more confident in the game and he had to get down low soon after to gather a low O’Neill shot from the edge of the box.
Alan Reynolds’ men were handed a lifeline with 13 minutes to go when Gary O’Neill foolishly upended Rory Feely in the box. Aborah calmly slotted the spotkick away sending Kearns diving the opposite way. That was their first shot on target of the game but they couldn’t make it count.
They applied pressure late on but failed to create any clear cut chances as Collie O’Neill’s young charges proved themselves well able to take on – and beat – top flight opposition.
It was a desperately disappointing night for the Blues who in truth deserved nothing from the game with UCD very much worthy of their place in the semi-finals of this year’s competition.
UCD: Conor Kearns; Dan Tobin, Liam Scales, Josh Collins, Evan Osam; Neil Farrugia (Daire O'Connor 84), Greg Sloggett, Gary O'Neill, Jason McClelland; Timmy Molloy (Paul Doyle 81), Conor Davis (Yoyo Mahdy 88).
Subs not used: Gavin Sheridan (gk), Evan Farrell, Kevin Coffey, Sean McDonald.
Booked: Evan Osam (77).
Waterford: Niall Corbet; Dylan Barnett, Kenny Browne, David Webster, Garry Comerford; Dessie Hutchinson (Stanley Aborah h/t), Bastien Hery, Paul Keegan (Rory Feely 59), Gavan Holohan; Dean O'Halloran, Ismahil Akinade (Courtney Duffus 37).
Subs not used: Matthew Connor (gk), Noe Baba, John Martin, Carlos Wilson.
Booked: Davie Webster (90+2).
Referee: John McLoughlin.
Attendance: 750 (estimate).
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Timmy Molloy (UCD).
IDM FAI Cup - GOAL 26': Timmy Molloy picks out the top corner with a brilliant strike from the edge of the box as the ball comes out from a corner!— UCD AFC (@UCDAFC) September 7, 2018
UCD 2 - 0 Waterford pic.twitter.com/EJBkCfnDcL