UCD 1; Waterford United 3
A passionate performance from a fired-up Waterford United team booked a EA Sports Cup final spot against UCD on Tuesday night last in Belfield.
When referee Neil Doyle blew the full-time whistle, tears of joy flowed from the eyes on many supporters and also from “Mr Waterford United” himself, John O’Sullivan. Quite simply this was one of those magical nights which unfortunately don’t occur often enough.
Waterford were the first ever winners of the League Cup back in season 1973-’74. They beat Finn Harps in that decider and in season 1984-’85 they defeated Finn Harps once again to win the trophy in Kilcohan Park.
Those were the only two occasions that the Blues appeared in the final of the competition, so a 24-year gap has now been bridged. Their opponents on Saturday, September 26th will be the Premier League leaders Bohemians, with the added bonus that the decider will be played at the RSC, and will be televised live by Setanta Ireland.
The first half against UCD was pretty even but the ‘Super Blues’ took over completely in the second half, and a majestic display by John Kearney tore the home side asunder.
Another Waterford player who shone on the night was striker Graham Cummins. He made it an impressive 11 goals from his last eight games and brought his overall total for the season 20. There was not a weak link within the squad and the manager Stephen Henderson described the display of his team as “magnificent”.
Kevin Murray, the stylish central defender, claimed that when playing to form this Waterford team is without doubt the best side in the First Division. On the evidence of this performance no-one could disagree with him.
Waterford almost took the lead after eight minutes. John Kearney played a long ball forward from the left which was met by Graham Cummins but his looping header came back off the top of the crossbar.
Ronan Finn and Greg Bolger had chances for UCD afterwards but they failed to make the Blues goalkeeper Michael Devine work. The last chance of the first half fell to Waterford but John Kearney was just off-target with a well-struck free-kick from 35 yards.
Waterford took control completely when the second half got underway and it came as no surprise when they took the lead after 58 minutes. Dave Warren won a corner kick on the right, John Kearney swung the ball over to the back post and Kenny Browne who had come forward from defence headed powerfully past goalkeeper Gerard Barron.
The second goal which arrived after 65 minutes was a classic. Again it was Kearney who sent over the delivery, this time from the left while running at top speed. His cross was met by Graham Cummins who supplied a superb finish by heading over the advancing goalkeeper from seven yards.
A few minutes later, Cummins was dreadfully unlucky not to score again when he sent in a curling shot from the left but on this occasion Barron produced a wonderful diving save.
He did however get another goal four minutes from full-time. Stephen Grant cracked in a low shot from just outside the penalty area. His effort was blocked by defender Andy Boyle but when the ball ran loose Cummins was in the right place to score his 20th goal of the season.
UCD were reduced to 10 players moments later when Chris Mulhall kicked out at Stephen Grant. The home side scored from the penalty spot in stoppage time when Kevin Murray was adjudged to have fouled Ciaran Kilduff and Ronan Finn netted but at that stage it did not matter as the large travelling band of supporters were waiting to pay tribute to their heroes, something they did in great style seconds later.
UCD: Gerard Barron, Brian Shorthall, Kieran Nangle, Andy Boyle, Evan McMillan, Greg Bolger, Keith Ward, Ronan Finn, Chris Mulhall, David McMillan, John Reilly. Subs: Graham Rusk for Reilly, Ciaran Kilduff for David McMillan (both 60 mins).
Waterford United: Michael Devine, Alan Carey, Kenny Browne, Kevin Murray, John Kearney, Dave Warren, Stephen Grant, Seamus Long, Kevin Waters, David Grincell, Graham Cummins. Subs: Willie John Kiely for Grincell (79 mins), Paul Walsh for Warren (81 mins), Kieran Fitzgerald for Grant (87 mins).
Referee: Neil Doyle (Dublin).