UCD AFC 3
Bluebell United 0
Clearly inspired by Leixlip’s antics against Phoenix on Friday night, UCD decided to get in on the giant-killing act, by slaying last year’s runners- up Bluebell United in the Belfield Bowl yesterday and advance to the quarter-finals of the FAI Intermediate Cup.
Goals from Marc Whelan, Tim Molloy and Conor Canon rewarded the prescience of those who took a punt on the 3/1 underdogs, as they beat a side six places above them in the table and who were unbeaten in over two months.
The students have had mixed fortunes in the league since earning promotion to the top-tier, but markedly improved form as of late has seen them move comfortably into mid-table and, now, into the last eight of one of amateur football’s most prestigious competitions.
For Bluebell, the missed opportunity of going one further than last year will sting, but, in truth, the students, particularly based on their display in the second half, were deserving winners. Andy Noonan and Co. will now turn their attention fully to bringing the title back to the Red Cow.
The first half, until Whelan’s opener on the stroke of half time, was without any incident of note, as both teams were guilty of passing aimlessly and without purpose, thus any kind of sustained possession on either side was rare.
It took the opening 45 minutes for the hosts to come to terms with Bluebell’s aggressive press game, which nullified any notions they had of playing constructively. At the same time, Sean Coffey in the UCD goal, was not called upon once.
When Whelan gave UCD the lead, it was worth the wait. Fran Moran switched play from midfield with a deft pass for the advancing Brian O’Reilly to find Whelan, who waltzed through Cleary and Sherlock before beating McNulty at the near post.
UCD returned from the break an entirely different proposition. In the No. 10 role, Timmy Molloy began to control play, in no short thanks to Fran Moran’s dominance in the engine room.
If UCD have lacked anything this season, it has been a centre-forward that understands the nuances of leading the line alone, but the emergence of Conor Canon, sidelined with a calf injury for almost two years, appears to have rectified the problem.
His selfless and intelligent running of the channels created ample space for Conor Butler and Michael Whelan to maraud on the left flank time and again, and stretch a United back four, over whom they had a distinct advantage in terms of pace.
In the 55th minute Molloy doubled the lead with a strike sure to be on the shortlist for goal of the season. Picking up Canon’s layoff, he took a touch before dispatching a 25 yard drive into the roof of the net.
UCD were guilty if taking their foot off the pedal for a time and Bluebell, through the hard running of Ger Bambrick and the industry of Peter Darcy and Gareth Cooney, still looked dangerous.
Marc Whelan should have settled things when he shot straight into the arms of McNulty, after running on to Michael Whelan’s perfectly delivered cross.
In the final 15 minutes Bluebell moved Peter Sherlock up front with Bambrick, but the closest they came to scoring was Darcy’s header that grazed the crossbar in the final minute of normal time.
In addtional time Canon capped off a fine performance by rippling an empty net after McNulty had abandoned his goal line in a bid to launch one more attack. It was fitting, as only a minute earlier he hit the post with an almost identical effort.
Man of the Match: Tim Molloy. Passed accurately, ran his socks off and scored a cracker.
1.Sean Coffey 2.Brian O’Reilly 3.Conor Butler 4.Tristan Bent 5.Steve Dillon 6.James Timmons 7.Marc Whelan 8.Fran Moran 9.Conor Canon 10.Tim Molloy 11.Michael Whelan. Subs:12.Niall Wright 13.Hugh Davey 14.Ronan Lynagh 15.Niall Hanley 16.Niall Corbet 17.Brian O’Brochain 18.Cormac Sven
1.Andy McNulty 2.Jeffrey Flood 3.John Cleary 4.Andrew Cleary 5.Peter Sherlock 6.Peter Darcy 7.Robert Douglas 8.Gareth Cooney 9.Ger Bambrick 10.Mick Collins 11.Sean Fitzpatrick. Subs:12.Sean Stewart 13.Darragh Killeen 14.Glen Madden 16.Trevor Molloy 17.Andy Noonan