UCD fell to a 2-0 defeat against a dominant Galway United as the Students were firmly dragged into the battle for the playoffs at the UCD Bowl on Friday evening.
Superb finishes from Ruairi Keating and Wilson Waweru either side of half time were enough to secure the points for the visitors as the UCD struggled to win their battles all over the pitch.
Galway began the more dangerous of the sides roared on by a small, but raucous contingent of travelling fans with the travelling support making the game seem as if it was being played on the west coast of the country rather than the east.
Both teams began the game at a high intensity, but it was the away side who were able to create a number of half chances in the early period with Killian Brouder and Mikey Place finding themselves in dangerous positions for headers but failing to trouble the UCD goal.
The Tribesmen steadily increased the pressure being applied to the UCD defence as the half progressed were close to taking the lead after 20 minutes as Lorcan Healy failed to collect a Dave Hurley free-kick and was relieved to see the ball bounce just wide and away for a corner.
Mikey Place, who was a livewire for Galway all evening nearly broke the deadlock minutes later as he ran on to a breaking ball and unleashed a powerful half volley into the side netting from just inside the box.
The Galway pressure paid off on the half hour mark as they turned defence into attack when keeper Conor Kearns narrowly avoided spilling the ball at the feet of Colm Whelan from an Evan Osam cross. At the other end of the pitch only seconds later, a sublime touch from Ruairi Keating allowed him to bring a long ball under control and fire an emphatic finish past Healy to give Galway the lead.
The Students attempted to make up the deficit before the break but an Evan Weir free-kick which flew just over the was the closest they would come for the remainder of the match.
The Tribesmen kept their momentum up after half time as they doubled their advantage just three minutes after the restart through a moment of pure quality from Wilson Waweru.
The Galway striker received a fizzed pass along the ground from the left-hand side and produced a perfectly timed Cruyff turn to completely wrong foot the UCD defence and give himself ample time to fire past Healy after a wonderful piece of skill.
UCD, who so often refuse to know when they’re beaten, couldn’t muster this spirit against the visitors however, and uncharacteristically began to lose their discipline. Unnecessary fouls began to creep into the Students play with Paul Doyle, Liam Kerrigan and Evan Weir all picking up needless bookings within four minutes of each other.
UCD could not rely on their usual tactic of passing out from defence as the back three was incessantly hounded by the press of Galway’s front four. This pressing forced the Students to lose possession in dangerous areas as Sam Todd overplayed the ball in his own box and had the ball stolen Hurley who couldn’t bend his shot around Healy.
UCD’s passing became increasingly erratic as the game approached the finish with simple balls going astray. Jack Keaney played a tired pass into midfield that was picked up by Hurley who then played in Padraic Cunningham, but the Galway substitute’s shot dribbled into the hands of Healy and would be the last chance of the match.
The Students’ effort remained constant throughout the match but nothing they tried came off as they failed to threaten former UCD keeper Kearns at any stage throughout the match. Galway, who by no means peppered the UCD goal with shots, were able to produce two clinical finishes and their flawless game management allowed them to see out a clean sheet to top off an immensely impressive performance.
UCD’s trademark free-flowing attacking football seems to have deserted them in recent weeks as an eight game unbeaten streak has been followed by four defeats in their last six outings. The Students’ will need to rediscover their spark up front to keep the pace with Galway and Treaty United, both of whom moved above them in the table after wins on Friday.
Andy Meyler’s side will expect to return to winning ways at home to the league’s basement side Wexford F.C next Friday while Galway United will seek a fifth straight win when they host Cobh Ramblers.