UCD AFC Suffer 2-1 Defeat To Wexford In Round 4 of the League of Ireland First Division

Image Credit: Oisin Gaffey from The UCD Bowl

Sports Editor Oisin Gaffey reports from The UCD Bowl as UCD AFC narrowly lose to Wexford FC in round four of the League of Ireland First Division

UCD AFC fell to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Wexford FC in The UCD Bowl tonight to make it their third loss on the bounce since their opening day victory over Bray Wanderers last month. The students conceded two poor goals either side of half time and faced a mountain to climb with just thirty minutes to go, but showed a fighting spirit to get a goal back through Eanna Clancy in the 82nd minute. Ultimately, it was too late for the students to mount a proper challenge, and it’s the visitors who head south with all three points.

It was a first half that was completely devoid of any real quality from both teams. Neither side was able to settle into any type of rhythm in the opening half, unable to string together a decent spell of possession. The belfield crowd reflected the half’s poor quality, as neither set of fans had anything to really cheer about. As a result, the crowd was noticeably subdued for the majority of the half. 

The visitors looked to use the long throw of their captain Ethan Boyle when inside the UCD half to threaten the students’ defence, but the home side were never seriously threatened from the set piece, able to clear their lines well.

A half volley from Wexford’s Darragh Levingston was the game’s first half-chance, with 32 minutes on the clock. His strike, possibly a result of his frustration at the lack of quality in this game, travelled towards Kian Moore in the UCD net at a ferocious pace, however it lacked the accuracy required to threaten the goalkeeper and sailed wide of the post.

Levingston’s lashed attempt seemed to spark Wexford into life, as they looked to finish the half on a high. The visitors were given a golden opportunity when UCD’s Harry Curtis scuffed a pass inside his own penalty area, the ball landing straight at the feet of Wexford’s Kian Corbally. With Curtis and Moore scrambling, Corbally remained calm to slot the ball coolly past Kian Moore to give the visitors the lead. Curtis had been trying to link up with Adam Wells down the left-hand side, but his poor pass gifted Wexford a cheap goal.

The remaining ten minutes of the half assumed a similar quality to the preceding 35, the game descending into a scrappy affair. It was a rather turgid opening 45 minutes of football from both sides.

The start of the second half saw much of the same quality from both sides, but a distinct rise in intensity from the visitors. After a scrappy period of play, Wexford won themselves a corner, a reward for their hard work. A dangerous ball was whipped in across the face of the UCD box and was met brilliantly by the head of Sean McHale at the back post, as he towered over the UCD defence. McHale’s header nestled beautifully in the top-right corner to extend the visitors’ lead to two.

The students responded well to the setback and almost equalised through the left boot of Michael McCullagh, who creeped inside the Wexford penalty area before unleashing a shot destined for the top-left corner. The winger’s shot took a deflection on its way towards the goal and skimmed the outside of the post to go behind for a corner. McCullagh’s close effort came at a crucial point in the game; had it nestled in the back of the net, it could have been a very different final half hour.

Wexford clicked into cruise control, slowing the pace of the game down to a snail's pace, much to the annoyance of the UCD players and home supporters. Desperate to get something from this game, UCD launched a series of attacks in the final ten minutes. Despite their poor performance throughout tonight’s game, the students showed great fight and determination to wrestle back some control.

The students were rewarded for their efforts in the 82nd minute, as captain Eanna Clancy scored a wonderful looping header to cut the visitors’ lead to just one with less than ten minutes remaining. After a dangerous Ciaran Behan free-kick was initially dealt with by the Wexford defence, Ryan McBrearty played a lovely ball over the heads of the rushing defensive line to play Clancy through on goal. The centre back looped his header over Owen Mason in the Wexford net to set up a grand-stand final ten minutes.

Despite the students’ best efforts, Wexford showed their experience to manage the final few minutes of the game well and deny UCD a final flurry of chances. 

The students will be disappointed with their performance tonight, as they were far from their best across the park. They can take positives from the fight and courage they showed in the final twenty minutes of the match, but it was ultimately too little too late. 

It’s a third straight loss for the students, who now sit 7th in the league table, level with tonight’s opponents.

Up next, Athlone Town in The UCD Bowl next friday, March 15th 7:45pm 

Team Lineups

UCD AFC: K. Moore, A. Wells, E. Clancy (C), S. Brennan (H. Parker 76’), M. McCullagh, M. Raggett (D. Norris 82’), C. Behan, H. Curtis, N. Holohan (D. Higgins 57’), D. Kinsella Bishop (J. Doyle 57’), A. Verdon (R. McBrearty 57’)

Substitutes: D. Kavanagh, H. O’Brien, D. Norris, C. Bolton, S. Norval, R. McBrearty, J. Doyle, H. Parker

Wexford FC: O. Mason, D. Levingston (B. McCann 66’), B. Lynch, E. Boyle (C), M. Rowe (C. Curtis 77’), K. Corbally (K. Harnett 87’), A. Dobbs, M. Hanratty, L. Lovic (A. Robinson 45’) , S. McHale, R. Webb

Substitutes: A. Moody, C. O’Malley, A. Robinson, J. Crawford, C. Lennox, K. Harnett, B. McCann, C. Curtis

Referee: Daniel Murphy 

1st Assistant: Phillip Harrison

2nd Assistant: Sean Stephens

Fourth Official: Lucas Keating