UCD 1-4 Sporting Fingal
UCD’s soccer team were dealt a heavy defeat by an impressive Sporting Fingal side on Friday evening. Ryan Mackenzie reports on the side’s last match of the season
On a cold October night in Morton Stadium, UCD suffered a disappointing 4-1 loss away to Sporting Fingal to end what has otherwise been a successful season.
With the home side looking for a win that would grant them the three points needed to secure a Europa League spot and the Students safely positioned out of the relegation zone, the scoreline was rather easy to predict. In fact, the difference in motivation levels was evident from the opening kick-off, which saw Fingal assume an offensive approach.
So overwhelming was this surge, that after only three minutes the home side were in front. A well-directed corner from winger Conan Byrne found its way onto the welcoming head of midfielder Glen Crowe, who placed the ball in the UCD net with relative ease. The home fans erupted and it appeared obvious that a long night lay ahead for the Students.
Things worsened for the visitors two minutes later when their opponents found the back of the net once more. A clever cross by former UCD captain Ronan Finn was whipped dangerously from the right wing into his former teams box and onto the head of striker Gary O’Neill. The ball was guided coolly into his opponents net to give his side a commanding early lead.
It was at this early stage that the perpetual battle between Fingal’s right-winger Conan Byrne and UCD left-back Brian Shorthall began to spring to prominence. Unfortunately for Shorthall, it was his opponent who won the contest by skating past the defender on numerous occasions with impressive skills and devastating pace.
The home side continued to focus their attack down the right side of the pitch, noticing a clear weakness in the Students’ defence and it wasn’t long until they were rewarded for their clever play.
On the 25-minute mark, a cross was drilled in once again by Finn. This time the talented midfielder slid the ball along the ground from the byline to once again find his teammate O’Neill, who was waiting eagerly around the six-yard box. The in-form striker tucked the ball neatly in the back of the UCD net, leaving the Students with a 3-0 deficit to chase.
The rest of the half continued in similar fashion, with the home side enjoying most of the success. The Students entered the changing room at the break with nothing but a disappointing 45 minutes to lament.
Much to the surprise of the Fingal contingent, it was UCD who started the second half the brighter. The Students adopted an attacking mentality and began to threaten the previously untroubled Fingal goal. Ciaran Kilduff, the college’s star striker, who had been frustratingly quiet up until this point, spearheaded this attack.
It was as a result of a terrific long distance shot by Kilduff that the Students were given a much-needed lifeline, with roughly fifteen minutes gone in the half. A parry from the Fingal goalkeeper Brendan Clarke gave UCD a corner, from which they converted their first goal of the match.
The ball was driven low into the Fingal box and met spectacularly by college defender Michael Leahy, who dived flamboyantly to meet the ball with his head and slot it in his opponents net. The home fans were stunned silent and the Students were spurred for a comeback.
Momentum shifted in favour of the visitors and they continued to break the home defence. Weaving runs by Chris Mulhall down the left wing posed all sorts of problems for the Fingal defenders. The Students were finally beginning to demonstrate why they belong in the top flight of Irish football.
However, against the run of play in the 75th minute, Fingal’s Glen Crowe scored a potential goal of the season to sink any hopes the visitors had of a late comeback. From the edge of the box, the midfielder took a pass on the side-volley and blasted the ball into the top corner of the UCD net to complete his brace. The stunning shot was the highlight of the match and was the last goal-bound effort of the night.
Although the result was not an ideal way for UCD to close the season, they will no doubt be more interested in their terrific achievement of earning another year in the Premier Division. Competing in their country’s top flight is a rare accomplishment for university sides, and the Students will look to build upon their success next season.