It was a tale of two keepers at Terryland Park as Ger Barron and Greg Fleming ensured tonight's encounter between Galway United and UCD ended in a scoreless draw, with the home side yet to find the net in 180 minutes of action in front of their home fans.
While Fleming made a number of important stops, none more so than his 46th minute penalty save, Barron edged the battle for Man of the Match garlands by virtue of two stupendous saves which denied Joseph Yoffe and Karl Moore in either half.
Four fixtures between these sides last year failed to produce a home win as both came away with five points from the duels. The most recent encounter was a harrowing one, though, for the home side as UCD trounced The Tribesmen 4-1 in October.
Both managers have had to do a lot of squad rebuilding since then, and it was one of United's new boys Karl Moore, recently of UCD, who first threatened to create an opportunity when whipping in a free kick which evaded all potential killer touches in the second minute.
Moore was an effervescent presence on the left wing for Galway all night and looks a key signing already thanks to his pace and ability to pick a pass once he gets into the red zone. One such darting run down the touchline saw Moore cut inside deftly and pick out Alan Murphy 23 minutes in but the reinstated striker was badly astray with his effort; earlier Murphy had smacked the post with a long range free which Barron was slow to deal with.
Connor's men were far from in control, though, with UCD breaking forward with menace and Greg Fleming had to be alert to keep out two low drives from Robbie Creevy in the opening quarter while Paul Corry caught the eye with some clever passing.
Galway were forced into an early reshuffle when Steve Feeney retired injured and Brian Cash was thrust into the fray up front, with Gary Curran slotting in at right back and captain Paul Sinnott reverting to his usual centre half role.
After a ten minute lull in proceedings following Murphy's miss, UCD centre half Tomas Boyle reignited the crowd's hopes for an opening goal of the campaign at Terryland when he mishit an attempted back pass, but Cash dithered when in the clear and decided against a lob, allowing Ger Barron to smother his poor effort.
Five minutes before the dressing room gatherings UCD almost sprung the United trap but Graham Rusk was caught marginally offside with only Fleming to beat. Then, in stoppage time, Moore profited from a defensive error to again pick out an incoming striker, this time Yoffe, who found the target but Barron made a great save with his right hand while scrambling left across the goal to keep his sheet clean.
Thirty seconds into the second half, with most still supping on their half time cuppa, referee Rob Rogers, with help from his assistant Damien McGrath, livened up proceedings by awarding UCD a penalty after Stephen Walsh had left Fleming cruelly short with a header and Rusk nipped in to nick the ball before being clipped by the 'keeper; ironically the same player was booked for a dive in a similar situation in the first half.
The same player took the spot kick but Fleming got down well to his right to thwart the striker and the danger was eventually cleared following a frantic scramble. Four minutes later Moore again posed the threat as Bobby Ryan clipped a clever ball into his path but when the winger slipped the ball across the six yard box with Barron exposed, no one was there in a maroon shirt to profit.
The contest became error-ridden for a time, with referee Rogers adding to the pervading sense of farce by landing on his rear while UCD shanked a free kick into Yoffe's path but United were slow to support the striker and a potential chance evaporated. Murphy then tried his luck with an audacious lob from the edge of the area which almost climbed over Barron's fingertips.
The game became an end-to-end affair with both midfield's struggling to cope defensively and leaving their back fours without much cover, but with neither side able to create any shooting chances of note until the closing stages.
Ten minutes from time Fleming again denied Creevy, who drove low from twenty yards, but the real drama was saved for late in the day when Galway broke down the right and a decent cross picked out Moore who steadied himself before unleashing a shot which was in the midst of being acclaimed as a goal before Barron somehow clawed it away for a corner, from which he also saved from a Stephen Walsh header.
Denied a clincher, Galway almost gifted The Students a winner a minute from time when a 4-on-2 attack saw Darren Meenan cross deep but Daniel Ledwith's angle was too acute and Fleming also parried the follow-up effort from another substitute, Yael Haro.
In the end, a draw was probably a fair result on the scale of work the keeper's were forced into and while the standard may have been sketchy at times, there was also a decent level of entertainment for a crowd that was 200 up on a similar night last year which produced a similar outcome.
Galway United: Greg Fleming; Paul Sinnott, Steve Feeney (Brian Cash, 9 (Enda Curran, 81), Shaun Maher, Stephen Walsh; Bobby Ryan, Sean Kelly, Gary Curran, Karl Moore; Joseph Yoffe (Paul Smith, 67), Alan Murphy.
Subs not used: Anthony Havlin, Gary Kelly, Rory Gartlan, Shane Keogh.
Bookings: Maher (37), Fleming (46).
U.C.D: Ger Barron; Paul O'Conor, Michael Leahy, Tomas Boyle, Ciaran Nangle; Dean Marshall (Yael Haro, 67), Robbie Creevy, Paul Corry, Gerard O'Callaghan (Daniel Ledwith, 46); Graham, Rusk, Darren Meenan.
Subs not used: Sean Harding, Robbie Benson, Mark McGinley, Samir Belhout, Cillian Morrison.
Bookings: Rusk (18), Leahy (86).
Referee: Rob Rogers.
extratime Man of the Match: Ger Barron (UCD).