Andrew Dempsey reports from the UCD Bowl
UCD secured their first three points of their SSE Airtricity League Premier Division campaign with a comfortable three-nil success over recently promoted Finn Harps at the Bowl.
Goals from Timmy Molloy and a brace from Richie O’Farrell secured the Students first competitive win of 2019 following both sides recent promotion from the First Division.
Coming into the game, UCD boss Collie O'Neill made three enforced changes from his usual starting eleven with Paul Doyle, Conor Davis and recently called up Neil Farrugia being ruled out by injury, however they were unchanged from last week’s defeat in Sligo.
Ollie Horgan was forced into some changes of his own with Gareth Harkin also being sidelined with a long-term injury coming into this pivotal bottom half of the table showdown.
Despite being praised for their entertaining performances and terrific interplay thus far, the Students have struggled on their return to the top flight having only picked up one point, with defensive lapses costing the South Dublin outfit dearly.
UCD had the best early opening of the game and really should have taken the lead through Kevin Coffey in just the 2nd minute.
The young midfielder burst through after a knock down pf sorts by Yoyo Mahdy who released Coffey who then, somehow, dragged his effort wide of the grateful Ciaran Gallagher’s goal.
Well in the ascendancy, Richie O’Farrell forced a mart save out of the Finn Harps shot-stopper once more before he hit the post after a lovely turn and swivel at the edge of the box following a fantastic sense of vision by the lively Mahdy who was impressing early doors.
Harps grew into the game and with Caolán McAleer, they had a major sense of purpose their play.
The former Sligo Rovers man tested Conor Kearns on many occasions from range but the recent Republic of Ireland Home-Based U21 call-up was relatively untested throughout the half asserting his dominance within his own 18-yard box.
Coffey edged out another opportunity to score before the half time whistle, but Gallagher saved after a deflection off a Harps backside before the half-time whistle was blown.
The Co. Donegal outfit had the first opening of the second period, but Kearns was equal to McAleer’s close range strike, however, UCD had the best opening of the early stges of the second half.
Standing at least 35 yards out from goal, the talismanic O’Neill unleashed an absolute piledriver that crashed off the top of the Finn Harps goal, an effort that really deserved the net to bulge.
However, the Students had not much longer to wait until they grabbed an opener which came through the influential Molloy. Molloy was on hand to poke home after a sensational stop by Gallagher from Mahdy’s close range strike.
Ollie Horgan’s side looked to hit back straight away but Cretaro saw his mazy run result in nothing more than a skewed shot going wide of Kearns in the UCD goal.
UCD, searching for their first Premier Division win since October 2014 made sure of all three points through O’Farrell after he was fed in beautifully by O’Neill.
The former St Patrick’s Athletic U19 starlet glided past the Harps rear-guard before slotting past Gallagher to seal the deal for Collie O’Neill’s outfit who were full value for their three points in the soaking rain in South Dublin.
Putting the icing on the cake, O’Farrell scored his second, and UCD’s third of the night after a ball in from wide by Mahdy as UCD added insult to injury for a depleted looking Harps who faded towards the full-time whistle.
All in all, it was a deserved win for UCD who secured their first Premier Division for the first time since October 2014, a 2-1 win over Drogheda United at the Belfield Bowl.
UCD: Conor Kearns; Dan Tobin, Josh Collins, Liam Scales, Mark Dignam; Richie O’Farrell, Kevin Coffey (Neil Farrugia, 76), Gary O’Neill, Timmy Molloy, Jason McClelland; Yoyo Mahdy (Sean McDonald, 86).
Subs not used: Gavin Sheridan, Evan Farrell, Darragh Corcoran, Luke Boore, Conor Crowley.
Booked: Timmy Molloy (24), Richie O’Farrell (67), Kevin Coffey (74).
Finn Harps: Ciaran Gallagher; Daniel O’Reilly, Sam Todd, Jacob Borg (Mikey Place, 83), John Kavanagh, Keith Cowan; Mark Coyle (Nathan Boyle, 65), Caolán McAleer, Harry Ashcroft; Sean Boyd, Raffaele Cretaro (Tony McNamee, 73).
Subs not used: Colm Deasy, Mark Russell, Niall Logue, Peter Burke.
Booked: Mark Coyle (23), John Kavanagh (26), Sean Boyd (54), Jacob Borg (69), Keith Cowan (79).
Referee: Robert Harvey.
Attendance: 500 (Estimate).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Richie O’Farrell (UCD).