UCD AFC: A Season in Review

UCD secured a vital 3-2 victory against St. Patrick’s Athletic last week. Andrew Collins reports on the game and analyses the Students’ season so far.UCD grabbed a crucial win against St Patrick’s Athletic that moves them level with Galway United in seventh spot after they made the most of a favourable wind in the second half. The goals were provided by David McMillan, Ciaran Kilduff and Greg Bolger in between strikes from St. Patrick’s Danny North and Sean Stewart. The miserable conditions in the Belfield Bowl did not seem to affect performances, as both teams played some crisp, flowing football at times.UCD started promisingly and Chris Mulhall almost opened the scoring after five minutes, but his powerful effort swerved just wide. The rain worsened as the game went on, but the slippery conditions didn’t influence St. Pat’s swift passing game. A magnificent Danny North strike from 25 yards put St. Pat’s ahead after 20 minutes.UCD had chances to draw the game level, but efforts from Karl Moore and Ciaran Kilduff were blocked. Pat’s almost doubled their lead when Derek Doyle was denied by a fantastic save from college keeper Billy Brennan. North’s goal proved the difference going into half-time.The Students made an inspired start to the second half, with substitute David McMillan firing a long range effort straight into the top left corner, to put the teams level after just two minutes of the second-half.UCD, now playing with a fierce wind continued to dictate the game, with Karl Moore always looking threatening on the right wing. Kilduff deservedly put the college ahead on 66 minutes after cutting in neatly from the left and sliding the ball past Pat’s keeper Gary Rogers.The home fans, who came in great numbers despite the awful weather, were celebrating again four minutes later when Richie Winter awarded the Students a penalty after Ciaran Kilduff was bundled over carelessly by Ian Bermingham just inside the box. Bolger duly converted from the spot, sending Rogers the wrong way.At 3-1, the Students looked to be safe and Sean Stewart grabbed what was purely a consolation goal late on for Pat’s. Stewart snuck in at the back post from a corner to tap in from close range, but it was the Students who had reason to celebrate on a blustery night in Belfield.Monday night’s match could be described as a tale of two halves, a first half where UCD struggled and the second where they were very much in control. The exact opposite however, could be said of the Students’ season.After a year-long absence from the Premier Division, the initial aim for this season was top flight survival, and the Students got off to a start that exceeded even the most optimistic fan’s expectations.The highlight of UCD’s campaign had to be the 6-0 win they secured away to Bray Wanderers – a Premier Division record. The defence was looking solid, with Billy Brennan keeping nine clean sheets in his first 13 games, while Ciaran Kilduff and David McMillan were providing the goals at the other end. This positive start had UCD in a comfortable position at the June break and relegation no longer seemed a concern.Unfortunately for the Students, their fortunes began to change after the break. Exiting both the Ford FAI Cup and Leinster Senior Cup at the hands of lowly Bray was disappointing, and things also began to go awry on the league front.Two four-game losing streaks and only one win in 13 games have thrown UCD back into the relegation dogfight, and they are now battling it out with Galway United for the sacred seventh position that will ensure they stay up.The return of David McMillan from injury and the arrival of former Manchester City midfielder Karl Moore could give the UCD the boost they need to regain their early season form. However, the team’s defence must be addressed – the Students have only managed one clean sheet in the last 22 games.Ciaran Kilduff’s goalscoring abilities nearly earned him a place in the Airtricity XI squad against Manchester United in August. Greg Bolger has also been a key player for the colege all season and fully merits his place on the Ireland U23 squad.As we approach the end of the season, UCD know that they will need to be at the top of their game for the last six matches. Important fixtures include visits to on-form Bray Wanderers and seventh spot contenders Galway United, both of which are must-win matches if automatic safety is to be achieved.College fans will be hoping that Monday’s surprise win will be the driving force that keeps UCD in the top flight for another season.