UCD enjoyed a fantastic start to life in the First Division on Saturday, winning 3-0 away to Cobh Ramblers. Goals from a trio of debutants, Gary O’Neill, Gary Swan and Jamie Doyle, earned the visitors the win in terrible conditions at St. Colman’s Park.
On wet and windy night on the south coast, Ramblers had a penalty claim turned away early on when Stephen Kenny appeared to be brought down in the box. Despite protests from the Cobh fans, referee Jim McKell waved play on.
Cobh looked very nervous from the off and did not appear comfortable on the ball. This was a stark contrast to their pre-season form, when they had played so fluently. The Students took advantage of Cobh’s shaky start and took the lead on nine minutes. Chris Mulhall’s cross found the unmarked Gary O’Neill in the box and he easily headed past David Browne in the Cobh goal.
The only times that Cobh threatened were through set-pieces, and defender Eoghan Murphy almost drew the sides level when his header from Kenny’s free-kick just flew over the crossbar. Cobh’s defence was struggling all night and UCD were awarded a penalty on 20 minutes when Brendán Frahill committed a foul in the box.
Conor Cannon stepped up but Browne produced an excellent low save to his left to palm it away. Cannon’s second effort was also saved brilliantly before the third effort was eventually cleared. The UCD striker almost made up for his error soon after, capitalising on a mistake from Alan O’Flynn.
Browne was equal to it though and kept Cobh in the game. Despite Ramblers’ defensive frailties, they were creating chances with Rob Waters and Eoghan Murphy both going close in the final minutes of the half. UCD went in 1-0 up at the break but it could easily have been more if not for the heroics of Browne in the Rams goal.
An improved showing was expected from the hosts in the second half but alas, it did not come. There were huge gaps in midfield with Chris Mulhall and Gary O’Neill having a field day in the UCD attack. The Dubliners’ substitute Ryan Swan produced a fine save out of Browne on the counter attack and this was a sign of things to come.
Ron Stanton had Cobh’s best chance of the game early in the half when his low drive from the edge of the area narrowly missed the target. UCD doubled their lead on 53 minutes through Swan. A lapse in concentration by Cobh’s Graham McCarthy saw the ball fall to Swan, who easily converted from eight yards.
It went from bad to worse for Cobh just before the hour mark as Jamie Doyle made it 3-0. More poor defending gifted the ball to Doyle who had no problem in making it three. Any ‘new-season optimism’ that Rams fans may have had was quenched at this stage.
The rest of the half lacked in quality as the weather began to deteriorate even more. Cobh replacement Darren Murphy (95) was one of the few home players to play well and he went close with a superb strike from distance.
UCD defender Mark Langtry was sent-off in added time, receiving a second yellow card and his marching orders. This was the one blot on the Students’ report card in what was overall a stellar performance by the visitors.
There’s no doubt that UCD will be strong this season based on this performance. Cobh however, shot themselves in the foot from the start and they were a shadow of the side that remained unbeaten in pre-season. Players didn’t perform to their potential and will be disappointed with their performances.
Neither side has to wait long for more action as the EA Sports Cup first round takes centre stage. UCD host neighbours Cabinteely on Monday at Belfield and the visitors will be in a great mood after their win over Wexford.
Ramblers welcome Limerick to St. Colman’s Park on Tuesday at 8pm and both these sides will want to bounce back quickly after heavy opening-day losses.
David Browne, Eoghan Murphy, Brendán Frahill, Graham McCarthy, Shane O’Connor, Alan O’Flynn, Rob Waters (Steven McCarthy 72), Ryan Goldsmith (Andrew Bhandarkar 60), Stephen Kenny, Kynan Rocks (Darren A Murphy 57), Ron Stanton
Steven Hickey, Jonathan Creamer, Ross McCarthy, Audie Dunlea
Niall Corbet, Mark Langtry, Sean Coyne, Ryan McLoughlin, Mick Leahy, Greg Sloggett, Chris Mulhall, Gary O’Neill, Dylan Watts (Daire O’Conchubhair), Conor Cannon (Ryan Swan 40), Jamie Doyle (Eoin Kirwan 85)
Conor Mackay, Samir Belhout, Maxim Kuogoun, Daniel Tobin
Thomas Stafford, Pundit Arena