Dundalk tightened their grip on the Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup with a deserved 1-0 victory over First Division UCD in Belfield this evening.
Ciaran Kilduff’s seventh goal of the season put the Lilywhites in front in the 65th minute. Having wasted several opportunities to register, the frontman, playing against his former employers, connected firmly with Daryl Horgan’s pristine cross to hammer his header into the net.
Horgan’s delivery must be complimented though, he stood the ball up perfectly for the big frame of Kilduff to attack, and he duly converted from six-yards. The double-winners led 1-0, and that was how the game would end as the Champions progress to the last four of the 2016 FAI Cup.
Ahead of the game, UCD manager Collie O’Neill named an unchanged line-up, following their 2-0 league victory over Cabinteely last Friday night. In contrast, Stephen Kenny opted to play an entirely different eleven from the one that put the Lilywhites seven-points clear at the summit of the Premier Division in Sligo three days ago.
Ciaran Kilduff returned from his prolonged injury lay-off, taking his place in an attacking threesome which also featured the O’Connor brothers, Ciaran and Michael.
Kilduff began the match well, although it was his display in the second period which saw him awarded the Extratime.ie Man of the Match. Despite being clearly low on match practice with some of his first half efforts being ginger to say the least, he was the vocal point of the Lilywhites’ attack throughout.
The Kildare native showed promise when inter-linking with Dean Shiels, their relationship always appeared to hold the key to Dundalk’s break-through. Northern Irish international, Shiels, portrayed glimpses of genius throughout. He and UCD’s 2015 captain, Robbie Benson were as dynamic as ever in midfield.
Despite Dundalk appearing to be the more refined outfit, UCD created the better opportunities from the opening-half. Their pressing style in midfield forced Chris Shields and Benson to cough up possession and while Gary O’Neill and Kieran Marty Waters took the plaudits from the crowd for offensive architecture, it was Greg Sloggett who was their star-performer.
The midfielder’s combative mentality allowed UCD to establish a comfortable foothold in the game. His bruising physicality in central channels kept forcing the Lilywhites to play laterally.
Chances came and went in the first twenty minutes, Dundalk holding the upper hand in terms of the quantity of opening’s created, however, it was the hosts who will feel aggrieved not to have taken the lead.
Ryan Swan should’ve given the Students the advantage on seven minutes. Last season’s European hero met Gary O’Neill’s ball into the corridor of uncertainty, however, his contact was too firm and with Gabriel Sava nowhere to be seen, the ball travelled over the bar with the striker a mere six-yards out.
UCD continued applying pressure in central areas with O’Neill and Kieran Marty Waters orchestrating their attacks, although it was right-winger Cathal Brady who almost provided the most telling moment of the opening-half. Out of nowhere he appeared on the left-flank and unleashed a thunderbolt which cracked Sava’s upright.
The Lilywhites had as many as five penalty claims turned down by referee Derek Tomney in an opening half to which the Lilywhites supporters made their frustrations known to the officials.
The second-half was a carbon copy of the first. Dundalk forcing openings and with the exception of Kilduff’s goal, UCD’s rear-guard repelled them. Stephen Kenny’s decision to implement the cavalry, in the form of Daryl Horgan and Patrick McEleney, who both introduced the required urgency into the Lilywhites’ play.
The Louth men created a myriad of second-half opportunities. Despite their play being more purposeful in the second 45 minutes, the Students again had clear-cut chances to score. Two of which came after Kilduff’s strike. O’Neill, UCD’s shooter-in-chief found Sava in no mood to concede.
The final ten minutes represented a shot fest for the Lilywhites, with Shane Grimes and Daryl Horgan going agonisingly close to putting the tie to bed. In the end though, Dundalk easily escaped with Kilduff’s notch being the difference on the score board.
UCD: Niall Corbet, Mark Langtry, Maxi Kougan (Josh Collins 76), Tomas Boyle, Liam Scales (Jason Byrne 90); Gary O’Neill, Greg Sloggett, Jack Watson (Georgie Kelly 79); Cathal Brady, Ryan Swan, Kieran Marty Waters.
Subs not used: Conor Kearns, Sean Coyne, Dáire O’Connor, Jason McClelland.
Booked: Gary O’Neill (65), Mark Langtry (42)
Dundalk FC: Gabriel Sava; George Poynton, Paddy Barrett, Alan Keane, Shane Grimes; Dean Shiels (Andy Boyle 75), Chris Shields ©, Robbie Benson; Michael O’Connor (Patrick McEleney 54), Ciaran Kilduff, Ciaran O’Connor (Daryl Horgan 45).
Subs not used: Gary Rogers (gk), Dane Massey, Carlton Ubaezuono, Keith Dalton.
Referee: Derek Tomney
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Ciaran Kilduff (Dundalk FC)