UCD A.F.C moved to the summit of the First Division table after overturning a two- goal deficit to run out 3-2 victors against Treaty United in the first ever meeting of the clubs at the UCD Bowl on Friday evening.
Sean McSweeney gave the visitors the lead from the penalty spot while a long- distance chip from Kieran Hanlon doubled their advantage less than ten minutes before halftime.
The students hit back through Dara Keane just before the break to give themselves hope and second half goals Sean Brennan and Harvey O’Brien were enough to complete the comeback and claim the spoils after a nervy finish to the game.
Both sides came into the match in good form and looking to preserve their unbeaten records in the league. It was Treaty who got off to the brighter start as their captain Jack Lynch forced a smart save from Lorcan Healy from just inside the box as the Students struggled to clear their lines from a long thrown in by Mark Ludden.
Treaty found the breakthrough only moments later as Sean McSweeney coolly slotted home from the penalty spot, after Dean George had been fouled inside the box on 11 minutes.
UCD should have equalised just shortly after as Colm Whelan spurned a guilt-edged opportunity, blasting over the bar from close range when he could have taken a touch.
Treaty were content to sit deeper after taking the lead, allowing UCD to take control of possession in midfield, but despite their more defensive attitude, they doubled their advantage after 37 minutes. Sam Todd found himself in possession near the halfway line but as Lorcan Healy rushed out of his box to attempt to get on the ball, Todd played a sideways pass which was blocked by Kieran Hanlon who produced a classy finish to lift the ball over Healy and into the open net from around 35 yards out.
Conceding for a second time was enough to lift UCD’s attacking intensity as they created chances through a Paul Doyle header that flew just over the bar and a tame attempt by Liam Kerrigan into the hands of Treaty keeper Tadhg Ryan.
The Students earned themselves a lifeline on the stroke of halftime as a low cross drilled in from the right-wing by Sean Brennan found Dara Keane who produced a first-time finish to send UCD in trailing 2-1 at the interval with his second goal of the season.
UCD did well to rouse themselves after the second Treaty goal and move up through the gears, after they had struggled to play between the lines of the packed midfield of their opponents for the majority of the half.
The intensity levels were increased after the restart with Treaty coming agonisingly close to a third in the opening seconds of the half. Jack Lynch was again denied, this time by the crossbar, as his looping header rattled the upright after a free-kick.
Treaty were to rue their misfortune minutes later as Colm Whelan danced through their defence, riding tackles until the ball eventually fell to Sean Brennan who guided the ball past Ryan to level the match after 51 minutes.
Treaty had barely got a foot on the ball after seeing their lead vanish before they found themselves behind as Harvey O’Brien turned home at the back post to register his first goal for the club on his home debut and complete a remarkable turnaround for the Students.
Conceding three goals in ten minutes either side of half-time had understandably rocked Treaty and left UCD buzzing with confidence. The Students almost had a fourth soon after the restart as Paul Doyle won possession in midfield and played in Kerrigan who drew a fine save from Ryan.
The third UCD goal well and truly knocked the wind out of Treaty as they began to lose their defensive shape and look fatigued. Doyle and Whelan were both close to beating the Treaty offside trap as they dinked respective efforts over Ryan and into the net, but both were chalked off by the assistant’s flag.
Whelan got in behind the Treaty defence yet again with just under fifteen minutes to play but was taken out by Ryan, who looked to be the last man and was somewhat fortunate to only see a yellow brandished by the referee.
Treaty, who had looked dead on their feet immediately before the closing stages, found a final burst of energy as they piled the pressure on the Students’ defence late on.
The visitors were able to fashion one last opportunity but were again denied by the woodwork with UCD managing to clear their lines and see out what could be a huge win come the end of season.
The Students showed strong resolve to fight back from two goals down to win the game and dig themselves out of the hole that their own defensive mistakes had left them, with Paul Doyle and Dara Keane putting in standout performances in the middle of the park.
Treaty United must be commended for their battling spirit as they almost salvaged a point at death but fell to their first defeat since joining the league this season after an outstanding start to their campaign.
Only goal difference separates UCD in first and Shelbourne in second while Treaty drop to fifth. The Students host Cork City next Friday while Treaty United will look to bounce back at home to Athlone Town.