UCD finished off the season with a draw against Shels at The Bowl on Friday night
By Peter Branigan
UCD played out a scrappy draw against Shelbourne in their final league game of the season at the UCD Bowl on Friday night. Shels scored early to take the lead before UCD came into the game and equalised before half-time. The second-half saw the Drumcondra club pile pressure on The Students but man of the match Ger Barron secured the point for home team with a string of fine saves.
The sides’ last meeting in August was somewhat of a turning point in the season for UCD. The students went into the game having played some good football over the previous five weeks. They had only managed to pick up one point in that time however. Paul Corry’s late winner at Tolka Park gave UCD the first victory in a sequence which saw them win four out of five games and pull out of the relegation zone.
The last time Shels played in Belfield in the league, they took only twenty-two seconds to take the lead. It was a similar story on Friday night as they took the lead inside two minutes. Kevin Dawson played a great through ball into the UCD box which beat all the Students’ defenders. David Cassidy challenged Ger Barron and the popped up for Cassidy to finish into an empty net from three yards.
Shelbourne dominated the opening ten minutes and could have had a second in the 6th minute, only for a superb last ditch challenge from James Kavanagh.
The Students gradually began to get a foothold in the game with Paul O’Conor starting to boss the play in the centre of the park. Their first half chance came in the 13th minute but the shot from outside the box by Robbie Benson was always rising.
UCD’s equaliser came against the run of play when it arrived in the 24th minute. Chris Mulhall’s excellent corner was met by Hugh Douglas from six yards out. His powerful header was never going to be stopped but Shels Manager Alan Mathews was visibly angry with his defence in the aftermath.
The game lost some of its momentum when Lorcan Fitzgerald and Douglas challenged for a fifty-fifty ball at the half-way line. Both players stayed down, but the Shelbourne player required the most treatment. After six minutes of treatment, he was taken off on a stretcher to applause from around the ground. Shels fans voiced their frustration when ref Neil Doyle booked Fitzgerald as he was being loaded onto the stretcher and awarded UCD the free kick.
The goal had given UCD confidence however and they had their best patch of the game in the ten minutes before half-time. A free-kick from Paul O’Conor was partially cleared by Shels before Gary Burke met the ball with a half-volley. Bennion made an excellent save down low to his left to tip the ball around the post.
All the pressure came from Shelbourne in the early stages of the second-half. Barron had to be at his best to prevent an own goal as Douglas’ attempted clearance nearly ended up in the net in the 53rd minute. Conan Byrne had a great chance to give Shels the lead fifteen minutes later following a great through ball from Kevin Dawson. Byrne’s attempted chip went just wide of the post.
UCD attacks were few and far between but a good run by Dean Clarke in the 77th minute, in which he beat Barry Clancy and Stephen Paisley on the right-wing, was only thwarted as the winger was about to pull the trigger.
In the last ten minutes, UCD were under huge pressure and they had a combination of Barron and Douglas to thank for the score remaining at 1-1. Barron made an excellent save in the 81st to deny Byrne following a through ball from Dawson. Douglas made a goal-line clearance in the 88th minute after Dawson had connected well with a David Cassidy cross.
In truth, UCD would have been relieved to hear the final whistle after three minutes of stoppage time. The season overall must be deemed as a success who had been given the tag as overwhelming favourites for the drop by the media at the start of the season. It’s credit to Martin Russell’s management style that he was able to gel established players with new underage talent and have the team playing such attractive football. Only four more months until it all begins again!
UCD: Ger Barron, Hugh Douglas, Mick Leahy (c), James Kavanagh (Mark Langtry 46), Ciaran Nangle, Paul O’Conor, Robbie Benson, Gary Burke (Barry McCabe 64), Dean Clarke, Chris Mulhall, David McMillan (Chris Lyons 75)
Subs not used: Samir Belhout, Graham Rusk, Mark McGinley, Danny Ledwith
Shelbourne FC: Chris Bennion, Lorcan Fitzgerald (Barry Clancy 31), Andy Boyle, Stephen Paisley, Glenn Cronin, Conan Byrne, David Cassidy, Philip Hughes, Kevin Dawson, Paddy Kavanagh, Stephen Hurley (Philip Gorman 90)
Subs not used: Paul Skinner, Sean Byrne, Paul Byrne, Stephen Sheerin, Ian Ryan
UCDSoccer.com man of the match: Ger Barron (UCD)