Jason McClelland 8' -
Dave Donnelly reports from the UCD Bowl
A superbly-taken strike from Jason McClelland earned UCD their first win in 13 games and closed the gap between themselves and Finn Harps at the bottom of the table to just one point.
McClelland found the target from a tight angle after eight minutes, taking a pass from player of the match Danu Kinsella Bishop before squeezing his shot in from a tight angle.
College boss Collie O’Neill spoke last week on the need for his side to adopt a more defensive shape in light of a string of high-profile departures, which included captain Gary O’Neill.
That work would be tested severely as, with Liam Scales seemingly bound for Bristol Rovers and defensive partner Josh Collins injured, O’Neill could only field two substitutes.
Luke Boore and Harry McEvoy had just 58 minutes of senior football between them going in – and 54 of those belonged to Boore – and they lined up in a back three alongside Evan Farrell.
The pair were the backbone of a phenomenal defensive effort as UCD rode their luck at times but emerged deserved winners thanks to McClelland’s early strike.
Indeed, it took a fantastic full-stretch save from Harps keeper Mark McGinley to keep it at 1-0, though Nathan Boyle missed a string of good chances for the visitors.
The Students took the lead with virtually the first moment of quality in the game, with Kinsella Bishop, starting just his second senior game up front, slipped in McClelland.
The winger, who has suddenly become on the few senior players left at UCD, has seen his contribution in front of goal dwindle this season as he’s been shuttled around various positions.
And he still had a lot to do as he was given a tight angle to work with but he showed a cool head to slide the ball across the body of McGinley and into the far corner.
Harps had little to celebrate in the early stages but there was some moment of cheer as manager Ollie Horgan tried to catch a loose ball and inadvertently dropped it on his own head.
UCD continued to press and probe and Mahdy was the next to go close as he found a yard of space just inside the box, but from a tight angle he could only hit the side netting.
An error from McEvoy let Boyle in for the first of a series of chances and she should have scored, but Conor Kearns was out like lightning to save with his feet.
And Harps hearts were in mouths shortly after as McGinley emulated his manager by fumbling McClelland’s chipped ball forward onto the roof of his own net.
A nice piece of skill from Kinsella Bishop set up Mahdy again, but he couldn’t find the target with either of his efforts, while Richie O’Farrell was wasteful with a strike from range.
Harps very nearly equalised on the break five minutes before half time when Boyle picked out Raff Cretaro in the box, but Farrell did enough to take the sting out of his shot and Kearns gathered.
And Boyle really should have levelled things on the stroke of half time as he sprung the offside track and raced clear but, after sitting down Boore, he saw his shot trickle agonisingly wide.
Harps brought on Tony McNamee for the ineffective Jacob Borg at the break and he caused countless problems, with his long throws in particularly putting Kearns in all sorts of bother.
The UCD keeper flapped at a couple of flat Rory Delap-style deliveries but the home side did enough to deal with them, though Caolan McAleer did force a routine save in one instance.
There was nothing routine about his next save as he show outstanding reactions to save Daniel O’Reilly bullet header at point blank range from sub Mark Timlin’s cross.
Harps continued to press in the final 20 minutes as a visibly exhausted UCD side retreated but, despite an avalanche of pressure, that gilt-edged chance proved elusive.
UCD: Conor Kearns; Dan Tobin, Evan Farrell, Luke Boore, Mark Dignam; Richie O’Farrell, Harry McEvoy, Paul Doyle; Jason McClelland, Danu Kinsella Bishop, Yoyo Mahdy.
Subs not used: Tom Murphy (gk), Hugh Torfeldt.
Booked: Evan Farrell (17), Harry McEvoy (52), Jason McClelland (75).
Finn Harps: Mark McGinley; Jacob Borg (Tony McNamee 46), Keith Cowan, Sam Todd, Daniel O’Reilly; Gareth Harkin (Mikey Place 70), Mark Coyle, Mark Russell; Caolan McAleer, Raff Cretaro (Mark Timlin 62), Nathan Boyle.
Subs not used: Peter Burke (gk), Harry Ascroft, Niall Logue, Colm Deasy, Tony McNamee, Mark Timlin, Mikey Place.
Booked: Mark Coyle (59).
Referee: Rob Rogers.
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Danu Kinsella Bishop (UCD).