Dave Donnelly reports from the UCD Bowl
Liam Kerrigan scored twice as UCD kicked off the Maciej Tarnogrodzki era in style with a 3-1 win over St Patrick’s Athletic.
Yoyo Mahdy opened the scoring for the Students midway through the first half and, though Conor Clifford pulled one back late on, the visitors left the field to boos from the majority away support.
A section of the Saints faithful chanted for manager Harry Kenny to go on the back of a result that could easily have read even more harshly on the Inchicore side.
For UCD, it was in stark contrast to seven days ago when they were on the end of a league record 10-1 defeat to Bohemians.
Manager Collie O’Neill, who led the Students to the First Division title last season and within 90 minutes of an FAI Cup final, was dismissed on Monday and Tarnogrodzki promoted from within.
Tarnogdroszki made five changes for his first game and one of them, top scorer Mahdy, gave them a surprise lead after 21 minutes.
From Jason McClelland’s corner, the striker rose highest amid a packed penalty box and buried a header past a helpless Brendan Clarke.
It was the first scoring opportunity the home side had created as the Saints had controlled the opening quarter without creating many clear chances.
Dean Clarke’s shot was tipped behind by keeper Gavin Sheridan, though it looked to be going wide anyway, and Cian Coleman headed wide at the back post but chances were otherwise few.
Much of that was down to the Students’ discipline and hard work off the ball, and they continued to outwork a Saints side who began to make uncharacteristic errors.
A wonderfully-weighted pass from Jason McClelland sliced the Athletic defence apart and Kerrigan had time to pick his spot in the corner as a hushed silence descended over the away fans.
Mahdy should have doubled his tally when a quick exchange of passes saw him run clear from his own half but he was caught up by Lee Desmond and saw his shot blocked.
At this stage seen days earlier, O’Neill’s UCD were only 1-0 down and seemingly still in the contest, before going on to concede eight in a second-half collapse.
That rarely looked on the cards tonight: UCD have played better and lost this season, but crucially they took their chances earlier and benefitted from fortune that’s largely deserted them to date.
One such example came five minutes before the break when captain Liam Scales, who made a sequence of vital interceptions and looked close to his pre-transfer window form, made a rare error.
He was caught in possession by Ronan Hale and the matchwinner against Cork City raced through but, with just Sheridan to beat, he pulled his shot badly wide.
If the Athletic emerged for the second half determined to make a game of it, those illusions were dashed inside a minute as Kerrigan bagged his second.
Ciaran Kelly lost the ball in the defensive third and Kerrigan was in like a light, picking up the ball on the edge of the box and rifling a shot past Clarke.
3-0 down and devoid of answers, Saints needed change and Kenny hooked Hale and captain Ian Bermingham, and finished the game with Glen McAuley, Jake Walker and Gary Shaw up top.
It made little difference and, if anything, UCD should have added to the scoreline with a succession of chances.
Jack Keaney forced a good save from Clarke and saw another long-ranger whistle narrowly wide of the top corner.
McClelland, along with Kerrigan and Scales the Students’ best performer, should have made it 4-0 when he danced to the six-yard box but somehow managed to blaze over the bar.
Amazingly, that miss might have come back to haunt UCD as Pats very nearly pulled back two goals in three minutes.
Clifford finally broke the resistance with nine minutes remaining, burying a low shot past Sheridan, and it took a terrific save from the keeper to keep it at 3-1.
McAuley’s deflected shot looked bound for the bottom corner only for the Ireland Colleges keeper to pull off an outstanding low stop.
The Saints continued to pepper the UCD area and Keaney saw red for stopping one long ball with his hand, but there was to be no dramatic finale as the Students held out for a morale-boosting win.
UCD: Gavin Sheridan; Dan Tobin, Liam Scales, Luke Boore, Evan Farrell; Jack Keaney, Dara Keane, Richie O’Farrell; Jason McClelland (Harry McEvoy 90+2), Liam Kerrigan (Sam Byrne 77), Yoyo Mahdy.
Subs not used: Tom Murphy (gk), Aaron McGrath, Dan Mullen, Hugh Torfeldt.
Booked: Jack Keaney (65, 90), Sam Byrne (89).
Sent off: Jack Keaney (90).
St Patrick’s Athletic: Brendan Clarke; Dave Webster, Lee Desmond, Ciaran Kelly, Ian Bermingham (Kevin Toner 52); Conor Clifford, Cian Coleman (Gary Shaw 64), Darragh Markey; Dean Clarke, Glen McAuley, Ronan Hale (Jake Walker 52).
Subs not used: Barry Murphy (gk), Simon Madden, Rhys McCabe, James Doona.
Booked: Glen McAuley (45+1), Jake Walker (64), Dean Clarke (67).
Referee: Graham Kelly (Cork).
Attendance: 585 (official).
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Liam Kerrigan (UCD).