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Two goals from Declan O’Brien weren’t enough for Drogheda United to defeat UCD at Belfield as the teams played out a hugely entertaining 2-2 draw on Sunday afternoon.
Drogheda started the game on the front foot with Declan O’Brien jabbing an effort narrowly wide and David Cassidy shooting into Mark McGinley’s arms before the two players combined to open the scoring after just ten minutes.
Cassidy provided the through ball while O’Brien timed his run perfectly before pushing the ball around McGinley and shooting into the empty net.
UCD began to create chances of their own as the game see-sawed up and down the sun baked pitch, and on 19 minutes Dean Clarke levelled the scores. Picking up a rebound, Clarke held off the attentions of Alan Byrne before making a half yard of space and cracking a well hit shot low past Gabriel Sava in the Drogheda goal.
The chances continued to come thick and fast as Ryan Brennan met Mick Daly’s finely judged cross and volleyed narrowly past the far post and it was the visitors who had the majority of the play.
But on the half hour mark UCD should have gone ahead when Clarke took a ball on his chest and directed it perfectly into the path of Robbie Creevy whose sweetly hit half-volley arrowed straight into the arms of Sava.
Drogheda continued to impress in attack while UCD always looked dangerous on the break and on 42 minutes Cassidy stole the ball from UCD keeper McGinley wide on the right. His looped cross into the area was cleared but only to Gavin Brennan whose driven ball back into the danger area was headed away by David O’Connor. Finally, Cassidy sent it back in for Peter Hynes to direct a header off an upright and away.
The second half was no less exciting than the first and within three minutes of the restart Drogheda had appeals for a penalty turned down when Cassidy drove a ball into Robbie Creevy’s arm.
ten minutes into the half and UCD took the lead. It started with a ball over the top that Gabriel Sava came out to claim. Unfortunately for the keeper he clutched it to his chest some distance outside his box. Robbie Benson rolled the free to James Kavanagh and his fiercely hit daisy-cutter darted into the bottom left corner of Sava’s goal.
In keeping with the spirit of the game Drogheda were level one minute later. As Drogheda pushed forward a ball squirted through the UCD box with Declan O’Brien in hot pursuit. McGinley got there first but his attempted clearance cannoned off O’Brien and rolled across the goal-line, despite the best efforts of Hugh Douglas to keep it out.
Samir Belhout skipped past two challenges before forcing Sava into a fairly comfortable save and Gary O’Neill whipped the ball off McGinley’s toe only to volley the ball across the face of the UCD goal.
It seemed that a winner, for one or other of the teams, was inevitable but Creevy’s overhead kick was scrambled around the post by Sava on 73 minutes and O’Brien’s header was palmed away by McGinley before Graham Rusk’s pile-driver was blocked down four minutes later.
UCD might have lost Kavanagh to a red with two minutes left when he took out Rusk as he powered through the defensive line and into the empty space between him and the UCD goal. The free was ballooned over the bar.
Drogheda were still pressing for a winner when added time arrived but Mark McGinley was in inspired form. Who could do little to prevent Declan O’Brien’s shot clipping the post but moments later he pulled off an instinctive save from Mick Daly’s close range effort. And from the subsequent corner he somehow clawed Byrne’s deflected header over his crossbar.
A point won then for UCD while Drogheda will perhaps wonder how they failed to come away with all three.
UCD: Mark McGinley; Gareth Matthews, Hugh Douglas, David O’Connor, Mark Langtry; Samir Belhout (Gary Burke 69), Robbie Benson, James Kavanagh, Robbie Creevy (Barry McCabe 81), Sean Russell; David Clarke.
Subs not used: Conor O’Donnell, Michael Leahy, Tyrone McNelis, Craig Walsh, Tom O’Halloran.
Booked: Clarke (39), Kavanagh (88).
Drogheda United: Gabriel Sava; Michael Daly, Alan Byrne, Shane Grimes, Gavin Brennan; David Cassidy, Gary O’Neill, Paul O’Conor, Ryan Brennan (Jason Marks 83); Peter Hynes (Graham Rusk 62), Declan O’Brien.
Subs not used: Michael Schlingermann, Philip Hand, Cathal Brady, Brian Gannon.
Booked: Sava (54), R Brennan (63), G Brennan (88).
Referee: Anthony Buttimer.
Extratime Man of the Match: David Cassidy (Drogheda United).