A well-earned victory against Galway United led UCD to continue their Airtricity success, writes Gordon O’Callaghan
UCD AFC 2 – 1 Galway United
UCD AFC maintained their Airtricity Premier League status last Monday night with a hard-fought 2-1 win at home to Galway United. The Students went behind early in the second half but rallied late on with goals from home debutant Chris Lyons and an own goal from Lawrence Gaughan.
The opening quarter was a scrappy affair, with UCD claiming more of the possession but failing to find any penetration in the final third.
Galway had perhaps the best of the early chances, with Mark Gilmore failing to find the target after a deft through ball from the left found the striker alone in the area. Barron did well to close the angle as Gilmore shot wide.
It was in the twentieth minute before the home crowd, boosted with the returning student population, witnessed the first clear-cut chance for their side; Robbie Creevy, who continued to show what an influential player he is when fit, released winger Darren Meenan on goal. Caught in two minds, it appeared that Meenan attempted to half lift the ball over the keeper and half blast it past him; in the end his effort was blocked away by the Galway shot stopper Conor Winn.
As Hurricane Katia battered the west coast, the high winds at the Belfield Bowl had a considerable impact on the game. Alan Murphy unleashed a speculative effort for the Tribesmen from the left wing, which, with the assist of the wind, almost deceived Ger Barron in the UCD goal, before landing on the roof of the net.
As the game progressed UCD turned their dominance of possession into chances, as Samir Belhout, Dean Marshall and Creevy went close.
Just before half-time the Students had perhaps their best chance, as Meenan slipped a good ball in from the left that found Robbie Benson lurking eighteen yards out, but his effort thundered off the cross bar.
UCD could not turn their dominance into goals, as the sides went in goalless at half-time. The second half began much like the first, with poor passing and a lack of precision letting down both sides.
Galway produced the first chance of the half in the fiftieth minute, and Oscar Sibanoi applied the finishing touch that had been lacking before the break. The tricky winger nimbly escaped the clutches of his marker, before Mark Gilmore whipped in the corner from the right and Sibanoi powered in the header past Barron.
UCD went close soon afterwards through Marshall but couldn’t find an equaliser, as Chris Lyons was brought on for Meenan in the sixty-first minute.
Only two minutes into his home debut and with virtually his first touch of the game, Lyons latched onto a Samir Belhout knockdown, and gave UCD the equaliser they deserved.
UCD pushed home from there, and within three minutes had their second goal. Sean Russell swung in yet another dangerous ball into the Galway United box, which Lawrence Gaughan headed into his own goal as he attempted to clear the danger.
UCD dominated possession for the final twenty-five minutes of the game, as Robbie Creevy marshalled the midfield, and should have wrapped up the game in the seventy-eighth minute when Stephen Doyle played in Creevy, only to have his shot cleared off the line.
With Airtricity League status secured for another season, manager Martin Russell can continue to develop his young squad for the next season, as the Students prepare for Bray Wanderers on September 23rd.
Barron, O’Conor, Russell, Boyle, Leahy, Corry, Marshall, Creevy, Belhout (Doyle 72nd), Benson (Ledwith 76th), Meenan (Lyons 61st)
Winn, Sinnott (Gartlan 86th), Son, Gaughan, Lusi (Walsh 76th), Brown, Ryan, Kelly, Gilmore (Cauldwell 70th), Sibanoi, Murphy
Bookings: Yob Son, Yellow, Samir Belhout, Yellow.
Man of the Match; Robbie Creevy