Despite admirable endeavour, a lack of imagination in attack was the chief reason behind UCD’s cup exit, writes Paul Fennessy
An opportunistic Lizzie Colvin goal was enough to separate the sides as last year’s winners UCD crashed out of the Senior Cup against a well-organised Loreto team in front of a vocal Belfield crowd.
The home side will ultimately have been disappointed at their failure to break down Loreto’s stout rearguard. Despite having a decent start and showing occasional glimpses of attacking promise though, UCD were for the most part lacking ingenuity in the final third of the field. They failed to capitalise on their early dominance, while the visitors grew in confidence as the first half progressed, gradually gaining a foothold in proceedings.
Perhaps frustrated by their lack of attacking headway and the increasing influence which the visitors had on proceedings, UCD launched bodies forward at will towards the end of the first half. Their opponents then demonstrated a masterclass in counter-attacking. A swift breakaway led to a strong run by Cathy McKean, whose cross shot fell kindly to the onrushing Colvin and the forward slotted the ball comfortably into the gaping goalmouth.
By the end of the first half, the visitors had evidently improved from their slow start and consequently just about deserved their lead on the balance of play.
The second half opened with a brief period of resurgence for UCD. Some early pressure culminated with the hosts finally breaching the opposition goal through a well-executed penalty corner, only for the effort to be disallowed due to the ball being higher than the 18-inch limit.
Continually thereafter, a mixture of poor passing and unimaginative interplay let the home side down. Captain Lisa Jacob’s pass straight out of play, when faced with a promising attacking opportunity, was symptomatic of UCD’s general impotency. Jacob, who looked lively throughout and was arguably the home side’s biggest attacking threat, will have been frustrated with this uncharacteristic mishap.
Loreto, to their credit, were consistently adept in defence and always looked assured due to this solid foundation. Although they never really dominated the game, the visitors looked more likely to add to their lead rather than losing it as the game drew to a close.
UCD, by contrast, showed occasional instances of naivety at the back. They sloppily conceded possession in dangerous areas on more than one occasion, but Loreto proceeded to squander these opportunities, owing to poor finishing and some courageous last ditch defensive blocks. Yet Loreto’s lack of ruthlessness in attack hardly mattered, such was their proficiency at the end other end of the field.
Loreto goalkeeper Louisa Healy was not a complete spectator, though. On the two or three occasions in which she was forced into action, she illustrated her ample reflexes and laudable concentration, given the infrequency of goalmouth action.
Ultimately, as far as Loreto were concerned, this was a game in which the phrase ‘winning ugly’ sprung to mind – an exhibition of rigorous endeavour as opposed to technical elegance. Thus the outstanding performer was arguably Niamh Small, whose surging runs, tireless work-ethic and indomitable presence in the midfield encapsulated her side’s strengths.