Galway FC return to Eamonn Deacy Park with a 2-1 lead following two late goals at the UCD Bowl in last night’s Promotion/Relegation play-off first leg.
Both managers were absent from the sideline as they served touchline bans, while on the pitch, suspensions meant that UCD were missing the creativity of Robbie Creevy and top scorer Robbie Benson, and as a result the home side struggled to create any real openings in the early stages.
Gary Shanahan and Stephen Walsh both headed wide from good positions in the first ten minutes for Galway, who came to the UCD Bowl in fine form, having eased past Shelbourne 4-1 in the First Division promotion play-off.
Timmy Molloy opened the scoring for the students on 18 minutes, striking low across goal into the bottom right corner after some quick feet by Gary Burke down the left.
The visitors almost found an equaliser minutes later, but Conor O’Donnell rushed off his line to bravely prevent Gary Shannon squeezing the ball by.
Yellow cards for UCD’s Colm Crowe and Galway’s Jason Molloy livened the game up shortly after Molloy’s goal, and as the game opened up the chances for both sides increased. Jake Keegan drove a low shot straight at O’Donnell, while at the other end Conor Cannon forced Conor Gleeson into a fine save, cleverly turning and curling a left footed shot at goal.
Cannon, who put in a man-of-the-match performance in Friday’s win against Drogheda United, should have doubled the Students lead on 70 minutes, but failed to connect with the ball from six yards out after Chris Mulhall found him with a clever free quick.
A succession of free kicks saw Galway pepper the UCD goal in search of a leveller, as a combination of O’Donnell and Hugh Douglas managed to keep out Ryan Manning, before O’Donnell was again called into action, brilliantly clawing away a Stephen Walsh header from under the bar. There was more to come, as O’Donnell again sprinted out from goal to deflect a Jake Keegan shot over the bar, after the Galway player had been allowed far too much space by the UCD defence.
A Galway goal seemed inevitable, and their reward came with just one minute remaining on the clock, as Paddy Barrett headed Marc Ludden’s long throw into the UCD net, before Manning was afforded the time and space to take the ball down and fire past the helpless O’Donnell in the final minute.
Scorer: Molloy 18
Booked: Crowe 27, Matthews 39
GALWAY FC: Gleeson; Horgan, Barrett, Walsh, Ludden; Sinnot, Connolly, Shanahan, Manning, Molloy (Faherty 69); Keegan.
Scorers: Barrett 89, Manning 90
Booked: Molloy 23
Referee: James McKell (Tipperary)