Play-off Final Report: UCD 1 - 0 Waterford

A first half goal from Thomas Lonergan helped UCD retain their Premier Division status after a dramatic play-off 1-0 win Waterford.

They survived a second half barrage and a last-minute penalty miss. It was due reward for their late season form and a resolute defensive performance on the night in Richmond Park.

It was a huge disappointment for the Blues as they failed to seize the opportunity to regain a place in the top flight. Many of their star players did not replicate the form that brought them plaudits from many. Junior Quitirna’s awful spot kick in injury time at the end of the game summed it all up. 

The Students were drawn as the home side and elected to make a number of changes to the team who lost 2-0 last week to Shamrock Rovers. Only Kian Moore, Evan Caffrey, Sean Brennan and Sam Todd retained their place. Waterford kept faith with the same side who accounted for Galway United in the First Division promotion final. Young player of the year Phoenix Patterson again led their attack.    

Waterford brought most of the support to Inchicore and begun in confident style. Patterson, who was recently named as First Division young player of the year, had an early shot just over the bar. Shane Griffin then had a deflected effort go just wide. UCD had a chance of their own, but Alex Nolan shot over the target. Yassine En-Neyah did well to gain possession to win a free kick which was saved by Moore. 

It would be a free at the other end that would bring the opening goal. Alex Baptiste conceded a foul out on the right side. Nolan swung it in, and Lonergan timed his run perfectly to beat Paul Martin to the ball and head home. First blood to the Students. 

Waterford tried to come back primarily through Patterson. He drove forward before having a shot that was just wide. His corner delivery found Tinmise Sobowale after, but he fired over from outside the area. The best move of the half saw Patterson find Shane Griffin in space. He played in En-Neyah who bore down on goal. Moore did excellently to block his shot.   

UCD were proving to be a tough nut to crack for Waterford as the half went on. They were able to limit the space effectively from the Waterford dangermen. Both Sobowale and Niall O’Keeffe were well off target with long range shots.  

The second-half almost saw UCD double their lead. Darragh Power was guilty of backing off from Dara Keane who was able to get a shot off. It went just past the right-hand post with Martin struggling to get to it. Patterson then had two attempts but was unable to hit the target with either of them. 

The Blues were beginning to step up the gears as they forced their opponents back. Sobowale put in a pair of dangerous crosses that were forced to be knocked clear. Patterson then managed to twist and turn away from his marker before unleashing a shot that was parried away by Moore. Sam Todd was in the right place to deny Wassim Aouachira on the rebound.   

Andy Myler’s men always seemed to have an outlet in Lonergan when they needed a breather at the back. His tireless running and tight control proving to be a nuisance for the Waterford back-line. Showing why many bigger clubs have been watching him.   

Waterford continued to come forward but were unable to breakdown the defence. The likes of Todd and his partner Jack Keaney standing firm when needed. Martin did well to collect the ball before Lonergan in rare breakaway near the end. The Blues pushed everyone forward and Cantwell was desperately unlucky to see his snap-shot go just wide. 

Waterford got a barely deserved lifeline as the game entered injury time. The referee, Rob Harvey, adjudging that Sean Brennan handled the ball in the area. Replays showed that it hit his back. They surrounded the official, but the result stood. Junior Quitirna took the spot kick but blazed the ball over the bar. Cantwell saw red shortly after due to a push on Keaney.  

Huge celebrations from the UCD players and supporters as the final whistle blew moments later. They will play Premier Division football again next season. Waterford players slumped to the ground as they tried to come to grips with the result. They will stay in a hugely competitive First Division. 

UCD: Kian Moore; Michael Gallagher, Evan Osam, Sam Todd; Sean Brennan, Evan Caffrey, Mark Dignam, Dara Keane, Jack Keaney, Alex Nolan ' (Donal Higgins 82); Thomas Lonergan.
Subs not used: Jamie Duggan, Dylan Duffy, Aaron Corish, Toby Jinad, Daniel Norris, Harry O'Connor.
Booked: Sean Brennan (53), Michael Gallagher (69), Evan Osam (84), Thomas Lonergan (90).

Waterford: Paul Martin; Alex Baptiste, Killian Cantwell (c), Darragh Power; Yassine En-Neyah (Dean Larkin 89), Shane Griffin, Niall O'Keeffe, Junior Quitirna, Tunmise Sobowale (Raul Uche 76); Wassim Aouachria, Phoenix Patterson.
Subs not used: Brian Murphy, Oluwatimilehin Sobowale, Richard Taylor, Jeremie Milambo, Eddie Nolan, Remi Thompson, Owen Oseni.
Booked: Darragh Power (51) ,Killian Cantwell (78) Killian Cantwell (90).
Sent off: Killian Cantwell (90).

Referee: Rob Harvey Player of the Match: Sam Todd (UCD)