UCD continue their pursuit of automatic promotion with another impressive display, watched by Ryan Mackenzie
UCD confirmed their intention to make a swift return to the League of Ireland Premier Division last Friday evening, putting five past a woeful Kildare County side rooted to the bottom of the table.
Hoping to take all three points from the encounter in order to keep second-placed Shelbourne at bay, UCD were utterly dominant against a Kildare side desperate simply to avoid a shocking result. The sides had already met twice this season, with UCD taking full points from each clash, 4-0 and 1-0 respectively. A Kildare win, in short, was never going to be in the pre-match script, and UCD ran out 5-0 winners in the coolest of fashions without ever looking threatened.
The opening goal came after just five minutes, when a grave defensive error by Kildare defender Baba Issaka allowed UCD captain Ronan Finn through on goal. His attempt was saved by Kildare keeper Darren Kelly, who could only parry the ball into the welcoming feet of winger David McMillan, slotting it home from two feet away. McMillan doubled his tally just five minutes later, getting on the end of a superb cross to neatly tuck the ball away in the bottom corner first time.
Much of the opening period was played solely in the visitors’ half, as the league leaders demonstarted exactly why they hold that honour. UCD bared down relentlessly on their opponents’ goal with a combination of clever and methodical play. The vast majority of UCD’s success came from the right wing, where right back and winger connected brilliantly to tear the Kildare midfield and defence appart. So effective was this attack that UCD manager Martin Russell temporarily switched his two wingers to help spread this dominance throughout the pitch. All the while, skipper Ronan Finn played the vital role of orchestrating the midfield, with a classy display of defensive prowess and link-up play.
Very little threat came from the visitors throughout the first third of the match, and it wasn’t until a well-guided free kick from the edge of the box glided just over the crossbar on 39 minutes that Kildare managed any real attempt on the Students’ goal. This chance was rapidly followed by some nicely-worked play leading to a scoring opportunity for the visitors just before half time, though the ball only found its away to the side netting from close range.
Despite this newfound threat from the Thoroughbreds, any slim hopes of a comeback were swatted away just before the hour mark, when marksman Ciaran Kilduff scored a terrific half-volley, rocketing into the bottom corner of the Kildare goal. It was at this moment that Kilduff found his stride: he was almost in on goal again moments later, but was caught in two minds between whether to go for glory or square the ball to his teammate at the edge of the six-yard box. As a result, he executed neither.
This error was avenged on 70, when a fantastic long-distance shot found its way through a forest of players in the Kildare box and into the tentative hands of the hard-worked Kelly, who again could only parry the ball onto the head of Kilduff. The UCD striker kept his composure to place the ball out of reach in the top corner and secure his brace.
It was the untimely sending-off of Kildare’s Craig Purcell in the 73rd minute, after a rash and overly aggressive challenge left UCD’s David McMillan on his back, that proved to be the most controversial moment of the match. The dismissal was met with shock and bemusement from the spectators who responded largely with confused silence, while Purcell’s Kildare teammates protested desperately. To add salt to the wound, UCD completed the rout four minutes from time: Finn slotting home a delightful volley from a long corner kick which found him unmarked inside the opposition box.
The three points see UCD maintain the top spot in the First Division on goal difference over Shelbourne – the Students are five goals clear, boasting the meanest defence in the division – while firmly pinning Kildare to the unenviable position of last place. Fittingly, UCD will meet Shelbourne next Friday in what could prove to be a must-win for the college side if they are to realise their ambitions of hoisting the league trophy this season and earn a return to the top flight.