The Belfield Bowl will host the second Dublin Derby of the week this Friday as UCD host St Patrick’s Athletic, with kick-off in Dublin 4 coming at the usual time of 7:45. While this may be a more lower profile encounter than the game which took part in Dalymount earlier this week, the clash still has potential for excitement.
It’s been a fairly rocky return to the top table of Irish football for the Students who have lost all three of their games this season. They come into this game off the back of a 2-1 loss to champions Dundalk in Oriel Park on Monday night.
Despite taking a shock lead thanks to a Neil Faruggia goal, The Students were pegged back by a Patrick Hoban penalty before Michael Duffy’s winner just after the hour mark.
This will be UCD’s second Dublin Derby of the season having lost 2-0 to Bohemians last Friday, however this time Collie O’Neil’s men will be hoping for better luck against Dublin opposition.
Having notched just a single goal in their first three games, The Students will have to dig deep to find a way past the Pat’s rear guard who are yet to concede so far this season.
The Belfield side don’t lack in attacking talent however despite the losses of Georgie Kelly to Dundalk and Daire O’Connor to Cork. Standout options include forward Yousef Mahdy, former Reading youngster Conor Davis and midfielder Jason McClelland.
All three formed an intimidating attacking trio last season as the Students went on to capture the First Division title, in particular, natural goal scorer Davis who managed to net five times despite joining the club late in the season.
In injury news, captain Gary O’Neill is a doubt for Friday night having picked up a rib injury. The Tralee native is a key figure in the heart of this UCD side, he finished as the clubs second top scorer last season, pitching in nine goals from the centre of the park and will be a significant loss should he not be declared fit in time.
The Students will be without former Shamrock Rovers youngster Evan Osam however, the full-back damaged his achilles before the beginning of the season. Also absent is Kevin Coffey who pulled up with a hamstring injury in last week’s defeat to Bohemians.
Ahead of the game, Manager Collie O’Neill spoke about his sides early season struggles, and how he believes that, despite their slow start, they can put it up to The Saints.
“We are starting to settle into Premier Division football. It is definitely a big step up from the First Division for us, however we knew that going into the season, our performances are improving with each game we play and if we keep performing then the results will come,” stated O’Neill.
“On Monday we went to the league champions, put it up to them, played some great football and created some good chances, and on another night, we certainly could have got something out of the game.
“We know Friday is going to be another tough game. St Pats will be confident of keeping up their good form, however we played well against Dundalk and we know we can raise it another gear again from that and if we can do just that then we might surprise a few people and pick up a positive result to kick start our season.”
ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC
At the opposite end of the table to U.C.D sit Pat’s who lie in second after two wins and a draw.
The Saint’s make the short journey following a scoreless draw with Finn Harps where, despite their efforts, Harry Kenny’s side were unable to break down the stern northerner’s defence.
Both their goals this season came courtesy of Mikey Drennan, the first being a penalty in the opening game of the season versus Cork, and the second a stoppage time winner against Drennan’s former club Sligo.
Having seen an overhaul of the midfield and forward line, its obvious that the Saints are just yet to click going forward, making goals a little harder to come by in these early stages.
Harry Kenny acknowledged this ahead of the game, telling the clubs website; “Seven points from a possible nine is good and we know we have a lot to still work on. It is a gradual process to have everybody getting used to playing with one another.”
He also acknowledged the threat posed by their opposition, continuing with; “We had a difficult game last Monday against Finn Harps who are a newly promoted side. We now face UCD on Friday, another promoted side, so we know it will be another tough game.”
“We know that UCD are a talented team and are settling to the Division. They ran Dundalk really close on Monday and will be fired up to get their first points against us.”
The game against their struggling Dublin rivals may present an opportunity for the Inchicore side to properly kick-start their season, however. Notching a few goals would be a great boost in confidence and help the new-look side to gain some chemistry.
While they are slow to get going up top so far, the Saint’s defence has looked solid and reliable. New addition Dave Webster joins Kevin Toner and Simon Madden in the formidable Saints defence, with the trio having started all three league games so far.
Ian Bermingham may have missed Monday’s clash with Finn Harps and is doubtful ahead of this game, but the Saints have defensive depth to fill the void left by their captain.
Both Lee Desmond and Ciaran Kelly can slot in with Kelly having done so previously while Desmond took up residence in the Saints midfield.
If Harry Kenny desires, he can move Desmond into the backline so as to keep Kelly as backup and open up a spot for one of the many capable midfielders in the Pats arsenal to step in.
The only confirmed absence from the squad is Dean Clarke, the former Limerick winger is still unavailable having picked up an injury before the season opener.
Referee: Robert Harvey
UCD 9/2, Draw 11/4, St Patrick’s Athletic 1/2
UCD 0 – 2 St Patrick’s Athletic
Injured: Evan Osam (achilles), Kevin Coffey (calf)
Doubtful: Gary O’Neill (ribs)
St Patrick’s Athletic
Injured: Dean Clarke.
Doubtful: Ian Bermingham.