Ireland U21 international Colm Whelan fired home a 42nd-minute penalty at Belfield to give UCD a slender win over Cork City in the SSE Airtricity League First Division.
Three days on from featuring for his country in a European Championship qualification defeat to Montenegro, the in-form striker claimed the only goal of a scrappy encounter in south Dublin. Although Andy Myler’s charges are already guaranteed a promotion play-off spot, this win will be greatly welcomed by the UCD faithful following recent reversals to Galway United and Wexford.
Having comfortably defeated the latter in Turner’s Cross seven days earlier, this result keeps City in seventh place with just one game left to play in the current campaign.
Even though the returning Gearóid Morrissey forced a low save out of netminder Lorcan Healy, the first quarter of this game was largely devoid of scoring chances. Indeed, despite the best efforts of Liam Kerrigan (who was also returning from Ireland U21 duty) and City’s Aaron Bolger, the opening period seemed destined to remain scoreless.
That was until David Harrington faced down Whelan from 12 yards after the City custodian was adjudged to have fouled Sean Brennan as he bore down on the target. The UCD striker drilled powerfully into the bottom left-hand corner for his 18th league goal of the season.
With his charges facing into a one-goal deficit, City boss Colin Healy opted to introduce Gordon Walker, Alec Byrne, and Dylan McGlade as part of a triple substitution at the start of the second half.
It was a decision that almost paid rich dividends for the former Ireland midfielder as Lorcan Healy had to be at his best to claw away Byrne’s fierce drive on 51 minutes. Having survived this scare, UCD were close to doubling their lead when centre-half Sam Todd rose to meet a Sam Verdon corner just shy of the hour mark.
Instead of placing the outcome beyond doubt, the Students were leaving the door ajar for a potential City fightback. Nonetheless - despite Cian Murphy heading just over the crossbar from a precise Darragh Crowley delivery - the hosts did just enough to claim the three points on offer.
Healy; Gallagher, O’Brien, Todd, Osam; Brennan, Keaney; Kerrigan, Verdon (Keane 71), Caffrey; Whelan.
Harrington; Honohan (Walker 46), Coleman, Hakkinen, Hurley; Bolger, Morrissey (Byrne 46), Coffey; Bargary (Crowley 71), Murphy, Kennedy (McGlade 46).
A Patchell (Dublin).