Andrew Dempsey reports from the UCD Bowl
Some inspired goalkeeping from Conor Kearns ensured UCD ran out comfortable two-goal winners over a disappointing Galway United at the UCD Bowl on Friday evening.
A goal from Daire O’Connor, and a superb move which resulted in a Yoyo Mahdy finish, sealed all three points for the Students in a superb team performance against the far more experienced Tribesmen.
In a fast and frenetic opening spell to the game, with UCD slightly on top, Galway were awarded with a golden opportunity to take an early lead via a penalty kick.
UCD defender Josh Collins tripped Eoin McCormack in the sixth minute and referee Robert Hennessy pointed straight to the spot.
McCormack saw his sweetly struck spot-kick well dealt-with by Conor Kearns as the Students breathed a huge sigh of relief thanks to the heroics of the in form keeper.
Having almost fallen behind, Collie O’Neill’s side soon rallied, and they would have taken the lead if it wasn’t for some last-ditch defending by Robbie Williams two minutes later.
Gary O’Neill’s in swinging ball almost found a Sky-Blue head before the former Limerick mainstay headed clear to avert the danger.
Despite that near miss, UCD once again saw themselves threaten the United rear-guard as Neil Farrugia smacked his curling effort from Tadgh Ryan’s post from close range.
It was a confident display from Farrugia, who impressed throughout as his constant trickery and technical ability caused a litany of problems for the United back four.
In truth, after that initial early burst of opportunities, the game failed to find any real flow to it as neither side were able to control the midfield positions in a frantic spell.
Farrugia once again went close for the Students a minute from the break but his stinging strike was heroically blocked by Stephen Walsh before it troubled Ryan in the Galway goal.
While the first-half was a bit of a mundane affair following the initial early spell, the second half certainly did not disappoint.
Kearns was once again called into action to provide a goal saving stop to prevent Danny Furlong from opening the lead three minutes in.
It was a quite incredible save from Kearns who somehow, with all his reflexes, managed to claw the ball away from the top corner to keep the scores level at nil-nil.
It was inevitable that Kearns’ save was to prove important as UCD soon took the lead 11 minutes into the second half thanks to a Daire O’Connor strike from close range.
After some industrious work down the left, Jason McClelland delivered a ball into the box which found the feet of Farrugia.
The striker’s effort was blocked down by Walsh before O’Connor slammed home the rebound from close range.
While they did rally following their concession of the goal, Galway lacked any real cutting edge up top as McCormack threatened without laying a glove on the UCD defence.
The moment of the game was to come soon after when UCD grabbed a superb second goal via the magic of Farrugia.
After being released by the talismanic O’Neill, Farrugia looked to have lost control of the ball before he jinked his way past Walsh and linked up with Mahdy to seal the win.
It was an expert move from O’Neill, Farrugia and Mahdy as the Galway native Mahdy was on hand to tap home against his hometown club.
Once again the Tribesmen rallied as McCormack saw his effort blocked down by Liam Scales as Collie O’Neill’s rampaging Students dug in to earn the clean sheet.
As the game petered out somewhat, Mahdy had the last real opportunity of note for College when his wayward volley went miles over Ryan in the United goale.
With time running out, and with Galway’s threat fading more and more by the minute, the recently called upon and Dundalk loanee Carlton Ubaezuonu went close from a Conor Barry corner but his touch-turned-shot went agonisingly wide of Kearns’ goal.
A comprehensive and deserved win for UCD sees them maintain their five-point gap at the top of the pile.
UCD: Conor Kearns; Darragh Corcoran, Evan Osam, Liam Scales, Josh Collins; Greg Sloggett, Jason McClelland (Paul Doyle 81), Gary O’Neill, Daire O’Connor (Timmy Molloy 79), Neil Farrugia; Yoyo Mahdy.
Subs not used: Gavin Sheridan, Daniel Tobin, Maxi Kouogun, Sean McDonald.
Booked: Jason McClelland (41)
Galway United: Tadhg Ryan; Marc Ludden, Robbie Williams, Stephen Walsh, Alex Byrne, Danny Furlong (Ronan Manning 64), Ryan Connolly, Eoin McCormack, Conor Barry, Gary Shanahan, Adam Rooney (Carlton Ubaezuonu 71).
Subs not used: Aaron Conway, Christopher Horgan, Alan Murphy, Wilson Waweru, Conor Gleeson.
Booked: Alex Byrne (53), Stephen Walsh (72).
Referee: Robert Hennessy.
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Neil Farrugia/Conor Kearns (UCD).