Second half goals from Ciaran Kilduff and Chris Mulhall were enough to seal a deserved victory for UCD over Limerick FC at the UCD Bowl on Friday night.
Paul Cummins gave the Students a late scare with a consolation goal in injury time, but UCD held on for victory to make a great start to their league campaign.
UCD created the first opening of the game through Kilduff on nine minutes. Some nice one-touch football from the Dublin-side culminated in a powerful strike from Kilduff, which Dave Ryan in the Limerick goal did well to keep out.
The Students dominated possession in the opening stages, while Limerick looked nervous and cagey. The UCD midfield looked confident and tidy as they searched for the busy Kilduff up front.
Kilduff should have put his side ahead on 26 minutes following great work down the right wing from David McMillan. McMillan floated a teasing cross into the six-yard box only to see Kilduff’s diving header go straight at the 'keeper.
The travelling Limerick fans were in great voice, but could do little to inspire their team in the first half. Indeed, they only troubled the Students from set pieces and created little in the final third. Their best football came when Greg Bolger and Ronan Finn looked to switch the play by getting the ball out to the pacy John Reilly and Chris Mulhall down the flanks.
UCD picked up where they left off at the start of the second half with their first opening coming in the 54th minute. Great play from captain Finn picked out the run of Reilly who cut in from the left only to see his strike blocked by a Limerick defender.
Limerick had a chance of their own just moments later when an outswinging corner landed at the feet of Brian O’Callaghan who failed to properly connect with his shot, which trickled narrowly wide.
The Students desevedly broke the deadlock in the 58th minute, much to the relief of the home crowd. Mulhall picked the ball up deep in midfield, playing a neat ball over the top into Kilduff. The UCD striker beat the offside trap before powering his way through the Limerick defence, before sending a fierce strike into the top corner.
Limerick responded well to going behind and have equalised minutes later following some slack defending from Andrew Boyle in the UCD defence. A long ball over the top from Ryan was missed by Boyle who attempted to head it back to his 'keeper, but almost directed it into his own net.
UCD began to take a hold of the game and in the 75th minute they doubled their lead. Some lacklustre Limerick defending on the edge of the box, saw the ever-determined Bolger steal in and lay the ball into the path of Mulhall, who held off a series of incoming challenges before smashing the ball past Ryan in the Limerick goal.
The Students continued to pour forward in search of a third, but Limerick, to their credit, stuck at it and in the 90th minute they were rewarded for their persistence. UCD failed to clear from a free-kick and the resulting cross from the left landed at the feet of substitute Paul Cummins who tapped home from close range. Ultimately, however, it was too little too late as Martin Russell's men held on for an opening night victory.
UCD: Ger Barron; Sean Harding, Mick Leahy, Andy Boyle, Ciaran Nangle; John Reilly, Greg Bolger, Ronan Finn, Chris Mulhall (Keith Ward 82); Ciaran Kilduff (Robbie Creevy 89), David McMillan (Peter McMahon 66). Subs not used: Billy Brennan (gk), Luke Hardy.
Limerick FC: Dave Ryan; Brendan Daly, Brian O’Callaghan, Jamie Wunsch, Martin Deady; Liam Barrett, Wayne Colbert (Stephen Goggin 76), Thomas Lyons (Paul Cummins 62), Paul Walsh; John Tierney, David Ryan (James Hayes 70). Subs not used: Brian Collopy (gk), Eoin O’Brien.
Referee: Phil Caschera
Attendance: 220 (estimate)
Extratime.ie man of the match: John Reilly (UCD) - A constant threat down both wings and unlucky not to get on the score sheet.